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…
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!
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…
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.
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. :)
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.
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.
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!
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.