Here's a signature letra sung by El Chozas. Melchora Ortega sang it to us during our private show on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez.
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It’s the final day of the year, so let’s take some time to reflect before ringing in the new year. What moments stood out in your flamenco life this year?
Below you can see some of my favorite flamenco memories from 2018 (in chronological order). I feel extremely grateful for the wonderful experiences this year delivered. One of the things I most love is how each event pictured below offered a new opportunity to join with flamenco lovers from across the country (and the world in some cases) to enjoy this incredible art form together.
Here are my top seven flamenco memories of the year
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.
Often after the Flamenco Tour I travel here and there. To explore, to scout things out for future tours, to visit friends, to see more flamenco... A couple of years ago after the trip ended I headed to Prado del Rey in the Sierra de Cádiz for a few days.
I did not rent a car and instead chose a home base with plenty of trails and places to explore on foot nearby. I spent a lot of time getting lost then finding myself in unintended places. While I look forward to hiking and discovering more of the sierra in the future, I'm very happy with my decision to travel sin coche this time around.
Some people considered the overall experience I had there (and my persistence in certain situations which you'll read about below) to be quite flamenca which makes me want to share this account of my adventures there with you:
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.)
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
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,
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 . . .
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.
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.
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:
One Saturday during the last Flamenco Tour to Jerez, after finishing class with Mercedes Ruíz, we showered and headed over to El Porrón for a lunchtime fiesta. José Luís had gotten us some delicious merluza fish from El Puerto de Santa María which Maribel prepared along with lots of aliños (marinated salads), a guiso (stew), and other goodies. Zorri sang, José Luís sang, Maribel danced, we danced, people stopped in to say hello. Afterward we went home and rested so that we could go out and see more flamenco later that night.
You can see pictures of that fiesta below, and if you're looking for a dose of alegría (happiness), DEFINITELY watch this video of Zorri dancing for us during bulerías class. I call Zorri El Embajador de la Alegría, The Ambassador of Happiness. One can't not feel happy around him, and watching him dance, well, it can make your face hurt from smiling so much.
At the end of the post you can listen to Atahualpa Yupanqui sing the song in its original form.
We heard El Almendro sing the following at Peña La Bulería on the last Flamenco Tour to Jerez. It was written by El Torta who, though illiterate, wrote many (very beautiful) letras. At the end of this post you'll find a video of him singing this, which I absolutely promise you you'll want to watch.
Momentos Solo (Bulerías)
Juan Moneo 'El Torta'
Cuántas cosas me recuerdan que tuve contigo
No se me apaga la vela que
Tengo por tu cariño
I'm currently in Prado del Rey in the Sierra de Cádiz where I've been walking and hiking and exploring like crazy. I came after the Flamenco Tour ended, and it is magnificent! (A perfect place to be to nurse Flamenco Tour withdrawals. In fact, I'm dreaming of a Flamenco Tour add-on trip, or just a tour of its own, to visit these white hill towns and walk in the Sierra de Cádiz... You can see some pictures below.)
In honor of the Concurso Nacional de Cante Por Serranas held right here in Prado, a serranas this week:
Yo crié en mi rebaño
de tanto acariciarla
se volvió fiera.
Y las mujeres
de tanto acariciarlas
fieras se vuelven.
Five days in, and the Flamenco Tour is well underway. I'll tell you a bit about that (and share photos) in a moment, but first, a fandangos letra for you...
There have been all kinds of shows going on here in Jerez. Below is a letra that we heard Alberto Sánchez, 'El Almendro' sing yesterday at the Peña La Bulería with José Manuel Alconchel accompanying him on guitar. They came straight from playing at Tabanco el Pasaje and were well warmed up. It was an intimate afternoon show in the front salon of the peña. We arrived early and got seats and drinks. It was a small but enthusiastic crowd, and everyone was there to enjoy and listen, except for one guy who kept talking who the guitarist stopped to lecture mid-show.
And now for that letra,
Every time I return home from the Flamenco Tour to Jerez I feel stronger. (It’s impossible not to after all of that time in class with Mercedes Ruíz.) I've learned how to turn the physical strength gained through dancing flamenco into mental strength to help me face challenges in my life. At the end of this post, I'll lead you through an activity to help you do the same.
Let’s begin with an excerpt from my journal a few years ago upon returning home from The Flamenco Tour:
I am home, and I feel it,
I feel it in my body, and I feel it in my being. (I always forget how this happens.)
The thing I wasn’t strong enough to do before I left. I can now do it. The thing I tried so many times to do before but couldn’t. The thing I kept trying to do but told myself I wasn’t strong enough to do.
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.