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.
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history of this business
We were named #3 in the Top Flamenco Blogs And Websites Every Flamenco Dancer Must Follow, Best Flamenco Blogs on the Planet by Feedspot Blog Reader.
That feels exciting!
I started this blog seven years ago at the suggestion of a student just before I left for Spain on the trip that inspired the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. I'm SO grateful that I did as it reconnected me to my love of writing, offered me a new means of expression, and most importantly, turned into a way to help and connect with others along their flamenco journeys. What started as a personal account of my flamenco learning has evolved into educational and informative articles, interviews with artists, translations of flamenco songs, and stories of my travels and flamenco studies.
In celebration of this, today I'd like to share with you some of my favorite posts from the past seven years.
Thinking about that first trip to Spain in 1998 has reminded me that I need to step it up in the doing things that scare the *#%~&> out of me category. Read on for a lesson around that idea and more of my story from that first trip. Also, find out why it's essential to listen to flamenco music, read a letra about Sevilla, then see a video of Juana la del Revuelo, Aurora Vargas, and Remedios Amaya ...
During my time in Sevilla I saw these women perform. During my time in Sevilla I saw these women perform live. As you'll see from the video below, it was wonderful. Their CDs were among some of the first I purchased once I accepted the fact that I needed to start listening to flamenco music. You see, in the beginning I wasn't very interested in listening to the music, especially cante, unless I was dancing, but Chris convinced me to start listening. He said I needed to do this to understand and internalize the compás.
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 September, so let's do a little first day of school, getting-to-know-eachother activity. I'm actually not kidding about that. People have been inquiring about my 'flamenco journey' so below I tell you how it began for me. (Later, why not tell me how you became interested in flamenco?)
My Introduction to Flamenco
I was a junior in college. I was struggling through Spanish class.
The professor spoke only in español which basically left me feeling like a Charlie Brown character being mwoah mwoah mwoahed at for hours upon end.
Every day we would watch this educational novela, answer questions related to the day's episode, and then "discuss" it. I rarely knew what was going on.
As you may have gathered, I did not particularly enjoy the class. While I constantly felt confused, behind, and overwhelmed, I am full of gratitude for the experience,
You see, had it not been for this class, I'm not sure I would be dancing flamenco today.
Here's what happened
I'll be honest. In the beginning, I wasn't a huge fan of flamenco singing.
It wasn't that I didn't like it.
It intrigued me that's for sure. But I didn't feel inclined to sit around and listen to it a whole bunch.
It didn't take long before that changed.
And actually, while I was initially drawn to the baile, the cante played a huge roll in getting me hooked on flamenco ... and keeping me in it.
Just like the compás.
Well, you know how it is now.
Which brings me to the letra:
People are often asking me about my how I got started with flamenco, about my first experiences. And awhile back I told you I’d tell you some stories from that first year in Spain. So I’m going to tell you a story from that time today. At the end of the story you’ll find a tip on dancing with the bata de cola, it's an essential, and you can work on it anywhere, in the bathroom, in the bedroom ...
But first, Spain
Telling you about my first year in Spain means I have to talk about Matilde Coral.
Porque es una figura.
I didn’t know it then, but my exposure to Matilde and her way of dancing would end up being kind of huge for me. Yesterday I had a big realization about the significance of her academy having been the first flamenco school I was sent to in Sevilla.
My main obstacle to bulerías has always been fear.
It's no different from my main obstacle in life
I know indecision well.
No wonder bulerías has always been so hard for me,
Not enough trust.
In a moment I'll tell you how I've let go of a lot of my bulerías fears (and how you can do the same).
Because the truth is, now I kind of can't get enough of bulerías.
It is not that the fear has been eradicated, it's that the excitement and fun usually slide it over to the side now. Gracias excitement and fun.
But before I get into any fear eradication techniques, let me give you a bit of background:
"I want to be in class with Mercedes ALL of the time." That is what I wrote in my journal on April 13, 2011.
But let's go back in time.
I arrived in Jerez on Friday, March 25 and began investigating classes to take.
Though secretly, I did not want to go to any.
A week in Jerez by myself.
I mentioned that I had this fantasy of dancing on rooftops before I went to Spain for the first time. Once I settled in Sevilla and found my apartment, I was overjoyed to discover that it had an azotea.
azotea - rooftop
I wanted to go up there with my character shoes. Yes, character shoes. I was so stubborn, so green that I didn't believe having actual flamenco shoes would make that much of a difference when dancing. Anyway, I wanted to go up to try to practice the little that I could remember from class.
Carolina, my roommate, told me to make sure that the door didn't close or I would be locked up there with no way of getting down. I think she may have thought I was nuts.
So one day I went up to dance on the roof
It was sunny and beautiful. Springtime and not too hot.
But it wasn't like my fantasy.
We spent just two days in Córdoba on the last trip.
Two days to see the city and one night to see Estrella Morente perform. I'll tell you about that on Friday.
It was my second visit to Córdoba
The first visit was in 1998, the first time I went to Spain.
I went there after my sister left.
I went there by myself.
I really ought to tell you about my first encounter with her. In Triana, on La Calle Castilla, at her academy.
I had no idea who she was, other than that she was a flamenco dancer, when I went to see her. We met in her office.
She had a lot to say,
but I only understood bits and pieces.
That's kind of how it was that whole first year in Spain. Most of the time I only partially understood people. I did however understand what Matilde wanted me to do. And I did not want to do it. In fact, I refused to.
But, I'm not going to tell you about that today...
For today, just this letra and a video of Matilde Coral dancing alegrías
A Matilde Coral
Daniel Pineda Novo
I was a junior in college. I was studying Spanish. Class was a struggle for me to say the least. The professor spoke only in Spanish, and I usually felt like a Charlie Brown adult was mwoah mwoah mwoahing at me all of the time. I can't even remember her name, the teacher's. I just remember she was eccentric, as they say, and that we went to her house once and she made us all mole. She was not Mexican but totally and completely obsessed. The mole was good enough. Anyway every day we would watch this "educational" novela and then answer questions about and "discuss" it. I rarely knew what was going on in class or with Raquel and El Padre Hidalgo on the TV set. Just one word sticks out in my mind, excavación. The whole novela had to do with some big excavation. So, why am I telling you all of this? Because a really good thing happened on account of that class with Señora Something-or-Other...
I became interested in flamenco.
This is a tale of how certain events lead to subsequent events allowing for a vision in spite of skepticism and self-doubt. Basically, Portland Flamenco Events began without a whole lot of planning. It was one small idea for one small event that turned into a whole flamenco business! Ok, so allow me to begin this story with Ricardo López, for this guy is a big part of the reason I am pursuing this work right now. I met him in 2006 when he was in Portland touring as a soloist with the Nuevo Ballet Español as a part of the White Bird Dance Series. He inspired me from the moment I met him and saw him perform.
He did this smokin' bulerías surrounded by a group of dancers doing palmas and jaleos.
It reminded me of why I loved flamenco
And made me want to do flamenco
And be around flamenco
I have been performing for as long as I can remember - perhaps some of you have as well. It began at a very early age - with highly entertaining shows usually created and performed with my sister for my family. My poor family. As a little girl it progressed to producing plays with the neighborhood kids.
And in elementary school, PRESENTATIONS! Ah, the presentation; it quickly became one of my most favorite things.
Then came middle and high school and drama. Plays and musicals and more plays and musicals.How dedicated was I you wonder? Well, for those of you who know me, I actually CHOSE to get up very early to rehearse before school... I am not a morning person.