25 Jul2010

Flamenco

by Marketman

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Corral de la Moreira. That is the only name to remember if you are visiting Madrid and need a flamenco fix. I am usually pretty good at most “artistic” performances, though I have to say that poetry readings and the ballet are absolutely the pits for me. When the teen was just a post-toddler, she took up ballet as all little girls her age seemed to be trying… There were no illusions of grandeur, Mrs. MM just thought it would be good for her adult posture. Oh and yes, those tutus were cute. So in her younger years we brought the Kid to several ballet performances whenever the chance cropped up, locally or while on foreign trips, but I have to be honest and say that the ballet was more effective than a sleeping pill for sending me to nocturnal la-la-land in a few seconds flat. On one trip to New York City, with two good tickets courtesy of Sister to Swan Lake or Cinderella at the Lincoln Center, Mrs. MM was taken ill and rushed to the emergency room of a nearby hospital then released for some needed bed rest. I had to take Mrs. MM’s place and take the kid (then 7 or 8 years old) to the ballet that evening. I blamed residual jet lag at the time, but scarcely had the curtains drawn apart when I apparently went into a deep sleep, snoring at top decibel, and mortified, the Kid started poking me in the side and swatting me with the program. I suffered through the entire performance and have NEVER been to a ballet since. Not sure if this was the catalyst, but soon thereafter, the Kid decided to switch from ballet to flamenco. It was a baffling choice for a 7 year old but at least flamenco was less subdued…

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The Kid stuck it out in flamenco for several years, with a fairly good instructor who was nearly 10x her age, and suddenly she was looking like a rather intense little senorita. She had a couple of recitals, one with a phalanx of Japanese ladies/housewives, of whom the instructor said, in hushed tones “they are so good technically, but they have no attitude!” and another recital with a retired-race-car-driver-turned-artist and flamenco enthusiast who was friends with the Kid’s grandparents!

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Her interest in flamenco died down eventually (probably when she realized it was definitely NOT COOL from a peer perspective) but there are wonderful photos from her performances and it’s clear from the still shots that she definitely expressed some attitude :) “Pagka-suplada” I think is how her tutor referred to it. Haughtiness, character, verve, intensity… Only after this recent trip to Madrid did I realize exactly what it meant to have ATTITUDE in a flamenco sense. Let’s just say, I never knew neck muscles could be so expressive…

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The venue was some 15 minutes by taxi from our hotel, and we entered what struck me as a really old-fashioned style tavern, and it probably hadn’t changed much in the last 100 years. A postage stamp sized stage of say 10 square meters for up to 10 performers at anyone time (including guitarists and singers) was in one corner of the room. Patrons were packed tightly in a room that couldn’t have been much larger than 150-200 square meters. We sat down just in time to see the first show. At say USD70 per person just for the show, I was wondering if we had just been suckered into another tourist trap.

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But as soon as the dancing started, we were mesmerized. Stunning flamenco, brilliant guitarists, wonderful singers (and clappers) and the hour and a half show went very quickly. It was exhilirating, fast-paced, invigorating. I would never have described an evening watching someone dancing in those terms. This was seriously good flamenco. But what do I know, I haven’t seen much flamenco at all… But it was definitely worth the price of admission. :)

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The were four guitarists playing simultaneously when the dances were going on, but this elder gentleman played classical guitar solos in between the frenetic stomping and swirling.

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Not only were the women stunningly good, but it seemed that the one guy who was also dancing was almost possessed or obsessed with the art of dancing. Turns out he was some major big doodoo in the world of flamenco, and we were lucky to have caught one of a few shows where he was a guest performer. I can’t recall his name, but I can tell you he MUST have been a master, judging from the praise he received from the audience and his colleagues on stage.

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I think it is almost impossible to excel at flamenco unless you have a neck like a swan. And they are all so thin because I am convinced this burns more calories than any gym routine!

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As soon as the performance was over, we headed home and made way for a second seating at midnight, which would go on until say 2 in the morning. Wonderful. Read more about it here if you are curious.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Connie C says:

    Now I understand why with my egging, I could not get you to watch “So You Think You Can Dance”. We all have different passions but I am one of those who can be so touched to tears with a beautiful dance performance.

    I love flamenco and love playing the music on a quiet night to drown the deafening silence.

    Jul 25, 2010 | 7:02 pm

     
  2. Footloose says:

    Ever tried lining up for The Nutcracker or the pantomime surrounded by the young and old dressed like Eskimos and the smell of roasting chestnuts rising from the vendor’s brazier? These are central to our Christmas celebration here in Toronto where touring tango and flamenco companies are always special treats and constant draws. Same art form, same driving rhythm, same heely hoofing, but oh for the life of me, Riverdance I truly cannot abide. The mere mention makes me queasy and throws me into pretty much how I imagine a vampire feels at the sight of a cross and a stake.

    Jul 25, 2010 | 7:22 pm

     
  3. Marketman says:

    Footloose, I laughed out loud at that one. Connie C., yes, I have two left feet in addition to not enjoying watching folks dance in a synchronized fashion… :)

    Jul 25, 2010 | 7:44 pm

     
  4. hoz says:

    While the Teens instructor may have used the word, “Pagka-suplada” I believe the correct Spanish phrase is “duende”.

    “El duende is the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside as a physical/emotional response to music. It is what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive.”

    “The meaning of duende as in tener duende (having duende) is a rarely-explained concept in Spanish art, particularly flamenco, having to do with emotion, expression and authenticity. In fact, tener duende can be loosely translated as having soul.”

    “According to Christopher Maurer, editor of “In Search of Duende”, at least four elements can be isolated in Lorca’s vision of duende: irrationality, earthiness, a heightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical. The duende is a demonic earth spirit who helps the artist see the limitations of intelligence, reminding him that “ants could eat him or that a great arsenic lobster could fall suddenly on his head”; who brings the artist face-to-face with death, and who helps him create and communicate memorable, spine-chilling art. ”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duende_%28art%29

    I once heard a Gypsy flamenco dancer say with “duende” she must bare her soul to the audience, and at the same time they must feel she is looking into their souls.

    Jul 25, 2010 | 9:10 pm

     
  5. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    By any chance, was the teens flamenco instructor Senor Gomez?

    Casino Espanol de Cebu just finished its celebration of Dia de Santiago and for the past 2 weeks has various events, one of which were flamenco dancers brought in by Senor Gomez of Manila.

    Jul 25, 2010 | 10:12 pm

     
  6. Marketman says:

    Artisan, yup, is there only one flamenco instructor in Manila? :)

    Jul 26, 2010 | 8:01 am

     
  7. farida says:

    I love the flamenco. Am not a dancer by any means but I just love the passion/emotions of the dancers. I did not see the flamenco in Madrid but in Seville at the flamenco studio/museum there. Was not really impressed as I expected more elaborate costume… oh well. Have to go back to Spain.

    Jul 26, 2010 | 2:55 pm

     
  8. Val says:

    For beginner’s Flamenco I would recommend Julie Borromeo’s school. Clara Ramona also has a good Flamenco school in Makati. Clara’s school would be more suitable for students who already have the basics down pat.

    Flamenco is a dance which is full of passion and heart. When I dance it, I feel like all my stresses disappear. You literally throw your anger and resentment on the stage and leave it there! My aunt’s school in Singapore has majority Japanese students and they have excellent technique but very few have “duende”. Most of them have travelled to Spain, and learned to play the guitar as well.

    Jul 26, 2010 | 8:26 pm

     
  9. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    MM, for awhile, I thought he was the only instructor in the country until Val’s posting above. hahahaha.

    Ironically, we could not find any flamenco dancers in Cebu. While Senor Gomez flew in from Manila, he’s dancers all came from Bacolod.

    Jul 26, 2010 | 10:13 pm

     
  10. pinkytab says:

    We watched a Flamenco performance in Granada in a cavelike theater. Yes, it was emotional and impressive but what I remember the most was how the ladies who sat when not performing would surreptitiously turn their head whenever the male star dancer with long hair twirled around. Then I realized that this was because he sweat so profusely that his long hair “sprinkled” the ladies behind. It was distracting to say the least. Since we sat close to the stage I had to avoid getting sprinkled on too. Avoid sitting very close to the stage.

    Jul 27, 2010 | 9:48 am

     
  11. Footloose says:

    Pinkytap, you do not want front row center either for Shakespearean performances, you would feel like a cuspidor.

    Jul 27, 2010 | 5:26 pm

     
  12. pinkytab says:

    @Footloose, that is funny! What Riverdance?

    Jul 31, 2010 | 2:46 am

     
 

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