Debby, one of the students on the last fall’s Flamenco Tour to Jerez sent me this summary of her experience a few days upon returning home with this note. “Thank you again for a 100% approval trip. Here is how I truly felt.” If you’re curious about what happens on the Flamenco Tour, read on:
You asked me to analyze more videos around here to better understand how flamenco dance works, so today I will deconstruct another bulerías of Pastora Galván. So here is a video (that you’re going to LOVE) followed by a breakdown of each component of the dance and when it happens:
Today’s letra is a bit different than usual. It’s not actually a song verse…
Watch the presentation of José Galán’s choreography for the 2018 Bienal de Sevilla flashmob, and read the phrases recited during the introduction. Next week I’ll publish part ofthe song along with a video from the actual flashmob.
Twenty years ago when I went to Spain for the first time, I got to see Paco de Lucía perform at Teatro de la Maestranza during the Bienal de Sevilla. This happened after I had been living there for about six months at a time when I was just beginning to understand what flamenco was.
This past Flamenco Tour was the smallest on record with only three of us! We still had an amazing time. Below read highlights from week two of the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. (You can see highlights from week one here, and you can read day-by-day accounts here and here.)
Getting To Know One Another
One of my favorite aspects of the Flamenco Tour is how the group tends to turn into our own little flamenco family. People take care of each other; they even try to take care of me although I’m supposed to be taking care of them. It's so comforting to feel the support of the people you're with …
When we were in Jerez we spent a lot of time at Tabanco El Pasaje watching flamenco. You can see shows there just about every afternoon and night. Below you can see a video of Juan Loreto dancing soleá por bulerías.
Soleá por Bulerías
Qué pena tengo en el alma
se murió la madre mía
cuando se anunciaba el alba
What sorrow I feel in my soul
my mother died
when dawn came
I still remember that first evening
Sitting together in the courtyard, eating tapas, sharing stories.
It was the fall of 2012, and we were in Jerez. A group of foreigners together in Spain to learn and grow and have a good time. We danced and laughed, did flamenco, saw flamenco, heard flamenco, breathed flamenco. We walked about the town eating yummy food, drinking sherry and café con leche...
But, wait, let's back up for a moment.
Have you given any thought to what you want to get out of your flamenco experience this year? If it has to do with making your hands look better, read on, for today I'll tell you about two common mistakes I see with flamenco hand movements and how to fix them. I'll also show you a video of Mercedes Ruíz, our teacher on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez, demonstrating how to move the hands correctly.
Sometimes we get so focused on learning the steps that we neglect details like hand movements. “I’ll get to it later,” we say. We may think we don't have time, that it’s not that important, or find it boring.
But practicing 'manos' is a must for every flamenco dancer
The good news is that there is not one right way to move the hands. Like other stylistic elements of flamenco dance, there is plenty of room for individuality in this area. Watch a few video clips of different professional dancers, and you'll see how personal hand and finger movements tend to be. Matilde Coral reminds her students to make their hands look like doves, Mercedes reminds us to open and use every finger.
While there may not be one right way to move the hands, there are wrong ways ...
After a full week in Jerez flamenco no longer simply surrounds us; it lives inside of us. Sounds from our dances play on repeat in our heads. We unintentionally walk up the steps in compás, the rhythms from class guiding us. We find ourselves dancing bulerías in our sleep. There’s no escaping it,
We are definitely in the midst of a flamenco immersion…
That’s what life was feeling like a week into the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. I’m now back home in Portland, and Jerez feels worlds away. Here’s a summary of the second week of our trip.
Flamenco is everywhere here in Jerez, in our classes, at the peñas and bars, and, then of course there's the spontaneous and casual flamenco that is a part of every day life here in Jerez. We see it as we walk past the bars and even as people greet each other on the street with palmas and a song. Olé. We can't get away from flamenco. We hear it as we walk to our rooms; we dance it in our sleep. (I've been doing steps and hearing sounds in my dreams which I know is a good thing.) Flamenco, flamenco, and more flamenco.
We are one week in to the Fall Flamenco Tour to Jerez, and I can hardly believe it. So much has happened and there is still so much more in store! People often ask me what happens during the Flamenco Tour, so below you can read about the first week of the fall tour, see photos, and even watch a video from one of the peña shows . . .
In 1998 I traveled to Spain to study flamenco. My plan was simple (and not very well thought out): Travel around, settle somewhere in Andalucía, find flamenco classes, find work. I had no contacts in Spain, no leads on where to study or work. I didn’t even know what city I was going to live in.
I just knew that if I wanted to learn flamenco I needed to go to Spain.
Today I'll tell you about finding flamenco in Sevilla, what it taught me about perseverance, and how it can help you.
I didn't plan much before I left for Spain. In part because I wanted to get a feel for the different cities before choosing where to settle. In part because thinking it through felt too overwhelming, and the more I thought about the details, the more I thought about changing my mind and staying put. I spoke Spanish, I had a strong desire to learn, I had saved enough money to hold me over for awhile, I felt ready for an adventure, and I knew I could figure things out once I arrived.
It’s pretty easy to find places to see flamenco in Madrid. The challenge is knowing where to find quality flamenco. (Yes, you can see plenty of mediocre flamenco even in Spain, and if you’re in Spain, you definitely want to see the good stuff!) So today I'll tell you about four places you can go to see quality flamenco in Madrid, show you some videos of fantastic dancers in action, and address the idea of the 'touristy' flamenco show.
The Flamenco Tablao
One of the best ways to experience flamenco in Madrid is to visit a tablao, a place where flamenco is performed. Here are four tablaos where you can (usually) count on seeing good flamenco in Madrid:
I'm in Jerez.
One by one the Flamenco Tour students are arriving. It's so exciting.
Tonight we get to know each other at the opening night tapas reception. Then we'll go to the Peña los Cernícalos to watch Ana María López's Fin de Curso. Tomorrow we begin our workshop with Mercedes Ruíz. The next day we start our bulerías class . . .
And so, a letra por bulerías.
Last week I published a colombianas letra from Perspectivas.
The first part is here. Below find the third part, the estribillo.
No me digas más
deja que esta noche
pueda dormir yo.
Another one that Zorri shared.
No sé por qué motivo
esta gitana lo hace
tan malamente conmigo
I don't know the reason
this gypsy woman
treats me so badly
You can hear it here, Los Zambos Por Fiesta, on Al Compás de Los Zambos. It's the first letra.
My parents crashed the first Flamenco Tour back in fall of 2012. I'm actually glad they did.
I'll tell you why in a moment.
This is how it came about,
I declared that I was going to organize a flamenco trip to Jerez for students interested in studying in Spain with a small group.
There were some chuckles.
And then they realized I wasn’t joking. And they told me they wanted to join.
When is it too late to start learning flamenco? Find out below and watch a video of Mercedes Ruíz dancing as a little girl along with a bulerías clip from Carlos Saura's Flamenco Flamenco.
According to Mercedes Ruíz, "It's never too late do what you want to do." Sure, she began dancing flamenco at the age of four, but that doesn't mean the rest of us are doomed.
I began dancing flamenco at the age of twenty three, or was it twenty two? Pat began when she was sixty nine. Becky began when she was forty four. Many of the dancers I know began in their thirties, forties, fifties, and even sixties. Many danced at a young age then stopped for various reasons only to come back to it years later.
We can begin dancing flamenco at any age
And there is no 'retirement age' for flamenco dancing. We can leave it and come back. And we can continue dancing flamenco as long as we want to. This is something that I absolutely love about flamenco.
It is a dance for all ages.
Older flamenco dancers are in fact respected and honored. This is part of the flamenco culture. (See video clips below.)
A younger dancer may have different goals than an older dancer. And one's desires as a dancer may change over time, just as desires around all things in life will evolve.
But the bottom line is this,
A story on the value of observation from a past Flamenco Tour (followed by four bulerías take-aways):
Sunday night I was writing
About flamenco and Jerez and what I'm doing here and what I want to learn here.
And I set some intentions for the week.
I had a few.
One was to Observe
To observe people dancing bulerías. Especially people whose dancing I liked. In class and out. Anywhere and everywhere.
To watch them, really watch them. And to notice what was happening.
To notice how they responded to the cante.
To notice how they danced with the compás.
To notice when they did what they did.
To notice the things I liked.
To notice the things that worked.
Maybe even to notice the things I didn't like.
And to notice the things that didn't work.
On Monday morning I went to bulerías class
That was the day Ani taught the ladies about dancing on a floor tile. I'll tell you about that in the next post.
It was also the day she read my mind.
I have some more bulerías advice from Ani for you about feeling good today. But first,
Let's talk briefly about steps
Because you learn a lot of steps in in bulerías class.
You could say they are just steps.
To play with.
To try out.
To hold on to. (Or to let go of.)
They can even be thought of as tools for understanding how the conversation works.
But going back to the liking them thing...
One day in Jerez