First Curso de Verano

I flew back from the UK via Madrid on Sunday and was back in the dance studio at 10am on Monday to start an intensive set of workshops held during the summer at the Centro de Baile de Jerez run by Vicki Ramos and a series of some of the best dancers and teachers available at the moment.

This week I am being taught by Pilar Ogalla from Barrio Santiago, Jerez. She is the wife of Andres Peña and this February at the Flamenco Festival they won the audience award for their show. She is a magnificent dancer and a generous teacher. We are learning Cantiñas, which is one of the Alegrías family of dances. My singing teacher, Luis tells me that the compàs and rhythm are the same, but the song and music is slightly different. Like Alegrías it comes from Cádiz, on the coast about 35 kilometres from Jerez through Puerto de Santa Maria and Puerto Real. It is a sassy dance where the female can strut and show off both strength but also sexuality and femininity. I am also doing the bulerías class with her where she is teaching us a bulerías de Cádiz which would typically be danced at the end of the Cantiñas so it’s great learning the two together. It is altogether more ‘flirty’ than the typical bulerías de Jerez and this one has more virtuosity in the steps and footwork with a lot of flicks and different weighting and balancing which means that you have to have your weight in exactly the right place or you will fall over. That means knowing exactly where you need to be ahead of time so that you move through the steps without falling over. At one point, for example we have our weight on the heel and fall onto the back foot and then over the front. It would be quite easy to collapse in a heap with that one!

I learned a cantiñas with Rafaela Carrasco about 5 or 6 years ago and looking back I didn’t have a clue. So I am pleased with how I at least can adjust my style and since I danced an alegrías in the school show choreographed and taught to us by Vicki Ramos a few weeks ago, I have the strutting and big movements in my body memory! I have been working on my style – especially of my upper body, and hands, since that is what people in an audience notice. My footwork is strong, but my memory horrible so it takes me a while for my feet to catch up! The principle is that you can work on that to get it up to scratch through practise. It is wonderful to be taught style and technique by someone like Pilar who is great fun. Pascual our guitarist is from Cádiz and lovely to work with. We are indeed very fortunate.

On day 3 of a week workshop I invariably have a very off day. Somehow all the work is in bits in the body and hasn’t quite come together. It didn’t help either that last night was very hot and I don’t have air conditioning in this flat so I didn’t sleep well and did not feel at all on form. Hopefully I will catch up tomorrow.

I am planning to do a class with Pilar at the Flamenco Festival next February where she will be teaching an alegrías with bata de cola. So similar to what we are learning but with the dress with a long train. So that will be familiar and fun – another level of difficulty – although I already perform an alegrías with manton and bata de cola, so hopefully not too unfamiliar and difficult.

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