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:
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.
During the fiesta Zorri sang the song below. It is originally a milonga, but he sang it his way, por bulerías.
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.
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.
A couple of weeks ago, Virigina, a Flamenco Tour alum, sent me the following account of her time on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. If you're curious about what happens on the Flamenco Tour, read on...
My Trip to Jerez
by: Virginia O'Hanlon
I have danced and taught Afro Cuban, Haitian and Brazilian dance for many years. I'm the sort of explorer who likes to "go to the source" so I have gone to these countries many times on dance/study trips. There were a few great trips, some ok, and two really miserable experiences.
I'm fairly new to flamenco -had 2 years in at the time of this trip- but became intrigued by the "por fiesta" dances so I started looking around for ways to study in Spain, particularly Jerez. I discovered Laura's trips, and it seemed like a structure that would work well for me, so I went last October. It was without a doubt one of the best, richest experiences that I've had, and here are some reasons why.
This is a story about how doing less in bulerías can serve us well. It's the follow up to the previous post on observation. Read on, and find out how to simplify your bulerías and perhaps even your life a bit too.November 2013, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
She said she was going to show them how to dance on a losa.
Y por fiesta.
And party style.
It was Ani who said that. Ana María López. She said it on a Monday morning in Jerez.
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
I wrote this back in the fall of 2013 when I was in Barcelona studying with David Romero. I thought you might enjoy reading it and finding out more about him...
November 22, 2013
I told you I'd be visiting Barcelona to study with David Romero.
I told you I'd been wanting to take classes from him for years.
And here I am in Barcelona
(Catalán. We are in Barcelona after all.)
Studying with David.
I want to tell you about some things that help me to feel better when I'm in a funky place. I also want to show you a very cool video and share a flamenco verse with you. But first, some words I wrote last week
(my first week back home post Flamenco Tour)
Coming home I feel overwhelmed.
This is not new.
It is how I usually feel after a trip to Spain. Excited to be back but overwhelmed and sort of confused at the same time.
I am sitting on my bed looking up at the Alhambra. (No, I am not joking.) It is almost 1am, and I am in Granada. I was doing almost this exact same thing at almost this exact same time last night.
In a moment I'll get to this week's letra along with a great raw video of Junco singing and playing guitar for the camera.
But first I want to tell you more about yesterday
I began writing this note to you in my little book yesterday evening at the Mirador de San Nicolás while listening to two guys playing rumbas with (once again) the Alhambra as my back drop.
Going to Spain was something she'd always wanted to do.
But life kept getting in the way
And then one day she realized that life wasn't going to let up,
that the perfect moment wasn't going to arrive,
that the time to go to Spain to study flamenco was now.
She realized waiting any longer made no sense.
If you've ever taken class with Mercedes Ruíz, you will likely recognize the words and phrases below. If you have not yet studied with her and plan to, prepare, because you are sure to hear these utterances over and over again.
If you have previously studied with her but were unsure of what she meant, read on, and find out.
If you have not studied with her and don't plan to, read anyway because the first eight are important tips to remember all of the time in your independent practice or in anybody's class.
It is Halloween, and I just returned home from the peña. I am in Jerez.
On the way I saw a family dressed up in zombie-style Halloween costumes. Their two dogs were dressed as jack-o-lanters.
At the peña
We saw Manuel Agujetas Hijo sing with Domingo Rubichi accompanying on guitar.
Below is a letra por fandangos that he sang.
(You can hear El Chocolate singing it here.)
No me quites la botella
que yo me quiero emborrachar
no me quites la botella
voy a beber de verdad
y a ver si no pienso en ella
y yo la consigo olvidar
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.
Not trusting my instincts.
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.
When we're on the FlamencoTour, we hear Santi practicing. A lot.
Santiago Lara, that is.
We're in the studio dancing. He's either in the bathroom or upstairs practicing.
When it's time to play for us Mercedes calls for him,
I can hear her saying it now.
Actually, if you listen carefully you can hear her saying it in the video below at about 1 minute 50 seconds...
I first interviewed him in the spring of 2013. Unfortunately, I lost all of that footage. I know, back up.
So, I interviewed him again last fall.
Tengo un secreto.
I leave in a few weeks, and I’m scared
But not for the usual reasons.
I’m afraid to take people there. Even though this will be the fourth time I’ve taken a group there to study.
Amy talked to her six kids and husband in the States regularly while on the Flamenco Tour in Spain. Thank goodness for Skype!
Watch the video below to find out what Jerez was like for a mother of six adopted children.
From Jerez last fall ...
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. In class and out. Anywhere. Especially people whose dancing I liked.
To watch them, really watch them. And to notice what was happening.