After 18 months here in Jerez – the Cradle of Flamenco

I am noticing that events that I wrote about last year have come round again and I am in a new cycle. Also artists or shows that I have seen are coming back or are being written about in the newspaper after happening in other parts of Spain.

What I am noticing is that my life here is like a spiral. I am revisiting these events, or shows or palos like the Bulerias, but there is a change in the quality of my experience. Or as happened last Saturday at the Peña la Bulería when I noticed the wonderful dancer and teacher Angelita Gomez sitting on a bench at the back very close to a friend of mine who has recently returned from America. Angelita is one of the greats of the flamenco teaching and performing world and taught my teacher Maria del Mar Moreno. She has attended a class I have been in and so knows my dancing. There is an exhibition dedicated to her at the moment in the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco. I recognised her and acknowledged her and was able to give a tribute to her personally. Later she danced a bulerias. Now those of you who follow my blog will know that I have been working on my bulerias week in and week out for the last 15 months. I have gone from utterly hopeless to really pretty confident and able to do some complex steps and react to the singer and dance on my own with the singer without stopping or getting hopelessly lost. (I still haven’t plucked up courage to dance at the Peña performances in public yet) I have recently also been told by Maria del Mar Moreno that I need to attend more frequent bulerias classes before appearing in the show in July.  However I know that my style, arms and hands are really pretty good now and I can dance on my own. I also noticed when Angelita danced – now I am a tiny midget compared to the giant that she is (and she is about 4’ 10” tall, but with huge presence) I knew that if I had danced I would not have disgraced either the Flamenco Puro school or Carmen Herrera who teach me. Also to feel acknowledged by Angelita Gomez itself was quite something in my heart.

The Semana Santa has just gone past and I saw a lot again this year. Last year everything was a bit of a mystery and very exciting. I was dashing from procession to procession collecting the Hermandad and their palco a bit like a train spotter. I really had very little clue as to what was going on, apart from the fact I know my Bible and the story of the Passion of Christ extremely well. However, I was brought up in a pretty strict Presbyterian tradition, so anything looking like an ‘idol’ was frowned upon. As a consequence I was very much overwhelmed with the beauty, devotion, spectacle and colours last year. This year having sung in the Cathedral Choir for nearly six months and seen the images of the Christ and Virgin very close to in the Cathedral as well as being a participant in the Semana Santa rather than tourist and bystander I had a very different experience. I listened to a lot of Saetas and whereas last year I was lucky to catch a few.  This year I listened and recorded lots. I sing a Siguirilla so I know how the form works and will go deeper into what is happening. I began to see the processions as a community coming together to express their part of the story of the Passion of Christ. Each one had a different feel and set of emotions.  I appreciated that Easter really means something to people here and isn’t just about Easter Eggs, chocolate and Easter Bunnies.

I mentioned that I have seen several flamenco shows more than once, for example Antonio el Pipa and Eduardo Guerrero’s Guerrero being two. I have also seen some very famous performers in different shows more than once – Rocio Molina, Olga Perricent and Farruquito for example and Gema Moneo who comes from Jerez and regularly performs with Farruquito. Olga Pericet I know very well having seen her shows in the UK and having been taught by her for a bout 7 week long courses. She calls me ‘one of my most faithful students’ I know the people she dances with – Marco Flores and Mañuel Liñan personally, both of whom now command shows of their own and both of whom are magnificent teachers. I am seeing their development and feeling a lot more confident when I say ‘you have to see this show’. Which I did for Eduardo Guerrero, who comes from Cádiz and whose show I first saw there over a year ago. He is an extraordinary dancer and director and had three excellent singers with him in the show. This year his show won the audience prize at the Flamenco Festival. I am trusting my judgement about flamenco. Not only do I know the technical side of the performance, but also the choreography, direction and development of the performers now. I don’t have to look in the programme to see what palos they are dancing – I know from the song and music. I can spot the up and coming dancers and singers in shows on stage and in the tabancos around Jerez. People are asking me for their opinion.

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