Flamenco Viernes

One of the people in the course last week was Scandanavian and commented that there didn’t seem to be much dancing to watch in Jerez. She said that in Sevilla she had been able to go to lots of tablaos to watch dance performances. This is true. There aren’t so many opportunities here. There are only a couple of Tablaos and some have closed – the market is smaller and people come to watch the ‘greats’ in the two weeks of the Flamenco Festival in February. I explained that for one Seville is a lot bigger and there are more tourists there, and secondly the Andalucían Junta pours a lot more money into the flamenco in Seville than it does in Jerez. (Especially in this the biennale year with the big festival in Seville in September) It removed (or considerably reduced) the funding from the Teatro Villamarta so that very little of any art forms could be performed in Jerez of any size. Another reason is that whilst in the UK and northern Europe the flamenco dance is seen as the most important aspect of flamenco here it is not. As Pilar Ogalla said last week in our class, ’the dancer comes last, it is the singer who comes first.’ So here in Jerez there are plenty of places to listen to flamenco singing. It is no accident that all the dance teachers here sing and I have learned a phenomenal amount through taking flamenco singing lessons that I just did not know through my teachers in England. It is almost a completely different art form. There is also another reason and I found it interesting to talk to a Scandanavian person about this. The flamenco in Jerez is almost a clandestine activity. It is actually very difficult to find out what is happening here unless you are in the know or actually living here. It is as though people make it very difficult! You can of course visit the Tourist Information Office – but there are surprisingly no hand outs giving lists of teachers and classes and their locations and a What’s On of flamenco week by week. This is strange.

However I also found it strange that this individual even though I told her about two opportunities – one was a good Tablao and the other was Flamenco Viernes which takes place every Friday at 22.00 in the garden of the Alcazar during the summer did not pursue the opportunities. When I asked she said ‘no we were tired’ or some like. It was as though she had to have it given to her on a plate. There are posters everywhere, including in the Tourist Information and I know for sure there were leaflets in the hotel this woman and her professional dancer daughter were staying in. This last Friday the Montoya family were performing. Now these are probably the best male professional flamenco dancers in the world – they are a flamenco family from Seville and their nicknames are La Farruca (mother) two sons Farruquito and Farruco and the other main performer the grandson, el Carpeta.

I went to this performance which was fascinating. First of all the musicians were young and playing in a way that is fresh and different. Second el Carpeta was young, powerful and electrifying. He broke two pairs of shoes and even though young, commanded the stage immensely. I have seen Farruquito dance a number of times – in Madrid on the big stage and here in Jerez at the Guarida del Angel as well as a couple of times in the Teatro Villamarta. I wouldn’t miss a performance of his for all the world. To see the whole family perform together was amazing. The most exciting thing was probably seeing their two youngest girls do a bulerías at the end. I have never seen such composed dancers at the age of about two and four in my life before. These girls have been born into a great flamenco family and know it even at this young age. I have seen lots of talented young girls dancing now, but with nothing like the command of these two. It was beautiful to watch. Now I know that the Finnish couple did not go to it – all of the other experienced members of the class were there. So what did they expect? Perhaps I should have offered to get them tickets, but they had been in town shopping so I knew that they were close to Plaza Arenal to the Tourist Information Office. I suspect just to be delivered to a flowery Tablao not to have to do some work themselves in getting there. What they missed was probably the greatest opportunity to see some of the greatest performers of flamenco in one family on the same night. How could you miss that?

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