In college, when given an open assignment, I often chose to write about flamenco in my Spanish writing courses. I didn’t exactly like flamenco, but there was a ton of information on it, making the research process much easier. I knew about the gypsy and Middle-Eastern origins, that bulerías were fast and lively and cante hondo the deep, bellowing flamenco chords that reek of heartache and loss. Meh, we Americans have blues, so I kinda got it.
But Geoff demanded I sit through flamenco shows in tablaos, bars and peñas in the name of budget tourism, so I did. Besides, there’s all kinds of jaleo surrounding the topic, now that UNESCO has named it an Intangible Cultural I-don’t-even-know-what. I used the night spents listening to cante and toca with friends, using it as an excuse to get the old married folk out of the house.
Something happened. All of the sudden, I was suggesting other smaller, lesser-known shows. I went to Peña Hípica Búcaro and watched a young singer melt from hospitable and friendly to deeply moved by duende, that intangible fire that grows inside you, toes up (shout out to Federico!). The gold-laden chapel in the Cartuja Monastery provided a backdrop to watching an up-and-coming gypsy from Granada parade around stage, dressed in a man’s high-waited paints and using her jet-black hair as sideburns.
My vocabulary is now infused with sujeción, tango, compá. I own a pair of Roberto Garrado flamenco shoes with clavos, nails which have been hammered into the toe and heel to make the toc toc sound when you dance. Walking down the street become accented, depending on the compás we’ve just done in class. I love the Jeréz bulería: un DOS un dos TRES cuatro cinco seis SIETE OCHO nueve DIEZ.
While my dancing has always been confined to sevillanas, a four-part dance with little variation, I’m enjoying my class, my maestra Carmen’s flamenco face when she raises her shoulders and the booty-dancing at the end of the bulerías routine. With just a few more hours of class left before I head up north, I’m savoring the last little bit of arte.
Here’s a few of the lesser-known tablaos I have been frequenting lately
T de Triana (C/Betis, 9)
Though it’s arguably the most touristy and one of the newer, the rustic, feel and superb dancing gets shouts of olé! and serves tapas. Free, starting around 22:30 Thursdays and Saturdays.
Peña Hípica Búcaro (C/Alfonso XII, 30, just east of Plaza del Museo)
Candles are lit next to Triana and flamenco’s love child, the eternal Camarón de la Isla. What seems like a group of young flamenco aficionados breaks out in song and guitar, providing a moving experience, though there is luittle dance. Shows Fridays and Saturdays around 22:30.
Miércoles de Flamenco, Monasterio de la Cartuja (Avda. de Descubrimientos, s/n)
The dancing takes center stage at the San Bruno chapel, whose gold retablao contrasts the stark white walls. The organization, Endanza, strives to bring lesser-known and new names in. Despite this, the duende is ever-present, and at 3€, it’s a cheap option. Wednesdays from March thru July, 20h.
Any other suggestions for flamenco, whether it’s an artist or a place to watch it?