Flamenco shows I’ve seen in Andalusia

My main purpose during my trip in Andalusia was to draw streets as much as possible. The second thing I wanted to do is see as many flamenco shows as possible. Honestly, the first two shows I saw were enough, being the worst and best ones I’ve seen.

When I arrived in Sevilla, I went to the Museum del Baile, and because they also have flamenco shows, I went in to see what the average tourist sees and thinks it’s flamenco. Given that the museum was founded by Cristina Hoyos, of which I knew only that she danced with Antonio Gades and that she was not considered attractive and sexy enough by the men of the time to include her in shows and movies, the show I saw was more than disappointing. I was expecting some sort of mystification of flamenco, but the level of objectification was beyond what I expected. The show started with a guajira, so we “can see how Spanish women seduce men”. Guajira is a style from Cuba, so not all that flamenco. Apart from the fact that the women were not really seductive, truly they weren’t even trying, the male dancer was running between them like a dog in heat.

I do not have a video since, at first, I didn’t want to film the performences, just enjoy them, and in this particular case, it was so bad I wouldn’t have thought of filming it even if I was set to do that. They also said it was forbidden to record, but that is the rule in most places.

But other people filmed, though not the exact show, but same format, same place. What I saw was slightly worst in attitude, but better in dancing. You have to understand, it’s not the technique that bothered me, but the attitude. There is also the fact that flamenco singers and dancers tend to specialize in certain styles of flamenco. A dancer that is very good on Soléa, can be ok-ish on Guajira. The tourists don’t know what they look at anyway. 

And for fun, a Guajira flamenca I absolutely love. See how playfully she is. I could fall in love with her a little. Couldn’t you?

You might think that the price difference counts, and just for comparison, a show at the most famous tablao in Spain, Coral de la Moreria, in Madrid, is 48 euros. Belén Maya performs there sometimes. This is 25 euros and is the most expensive one in Seville. The rest are 20-22 euros, or under.

In the end of the show, one of the women had a kitchen apron with polka dots on it over the dress. I can imagine that during the fiestas at home, the host woman would come and go from the kitchen and might pop in and do a dance with the apron on. However, to take that piece of clothing and make it “traditional” is something I dislike greatly for the stereotypes it promotes.

I do not know who performed, because at first I didn’t look on the board where the names were written, and in the end I didn’t care, but I wish I knew who the singers were. I liked them.

What I liked in the documentary “Flamencas: mujeres, fuerza y duende”, is that none of the women gathered to sing together wear the “traditional” flamenco dress. This is what I wanted to see when I went to Spain, and I only saw one flamenco show like that in Peña Torres Macarena. The format of this kind of places, peñas, is primarily for flamenco artists to gather and sing for each other, so the shows are of more quality, simply because the artists that perform here are supposed to be better than averege. There were locals and other flamenco artists and peñas owners in the audiance even when I was there. This makes the atmosphere better because you will hear palmas and jaleos from the audience, and this gives quite a nice vibe to the show. It is true though, that some places do not allow public intervention, but in this case they were expecting some professionals in the public, and tourists do not do more than clap usually, even if at the wrong time. Sometimes the performers will create a dramatic pause in the middle of the song in which the music and sound of the foot work should echo and live in the silence, but people cannot cope with silance very well so they fill it with clapping. They do not need to be tourists to do this, though, but I will get to that later.

Performers:

There is a tablao in Sevilla, La Milonga, that has opened only this year, 2022, where Fridays are dedicated to flamencas. At first, I disliked this since I do not agree with events only for women performers/ artists. I did go to this tablao on Saturday though. I liked that the singer was a very young woman, in her twenties. You either see child prodigies or performers in their thirties, if not even fourties and older. The twenties seem to be a black whole for a flamenco artist. Later, I looked over their program and they have female guitarists every week, not only on Fridays. That is brilliant. It normalizes the presence of female guitarists. They also have male dancers as well. It’s quite even, as much as possible, meaning within the available artists they can contract. I hope they won’t change with fame.

Performers:

I’ve seen 6 flamenco shows in total and one festival. After the 6 shows I really wasn’t interested in another one. I realized that more important than the places you go to, except Museo del Baile since the format of that show is the worst, is who is on stage. Typically, a flamenco show will start with a guitar solo, followed by dance, a cante solo, more dance and a fin de fiesta por bulerias/ tangos. The styles they perform and how they dress depends on the performers. The format of a flamenco show in theaters may be different. I haven’t seen one because I wasn’t interested. The main difference is that a theatre flamenco show is coregraphed, while the one in a tablo is usually improvised. That’s why I’m tablaos there is a clock on the wall opposite the stage, preferably somewhere the audience can’t see it, but the performers can. This way they know how much time they have left for each part.

The last show I have seen in Sevilla, was the second best. I loved the male dancer because his education as a ballet dancer showed and was combined with flamenco in a very organic way. It gave emotion to a dance that is typically all technic – the “pure” male flamenco dance, and which bores me to death. It was at Tablao “Orillas de Triana”.

Performers:

  • Baile: Manuela Barrios – https://youtu.be/RwuFLB8MR1Q
  • Baile: Cristian Lozano – https://vimeo.com/319589415
  • Guitar: Pedro Viscoli – cannot find anything online. I guess I liked him very much because he started the show with a malageña, which is one of my favorite styles.
  • The singer was good too, but I didn’t get his name.

In Jerez I could actually see how the place where you go to can make the difference. I have seen two shows. About the first one I wrote here. I didn’t say much on the performance because there was not much to say. I loved the singer. His energy was amazing.

Typically Mondays and Tuesdays are dead in Spain, which is when I was in Jerez. The best things open on Fridays and Saturdays, maybe Thrusdays. My host knew however where I could find flamemco shows even so. She is also the one who convinced me to go to the Andaluz Center for Flamenco since I was thinking not to do that. That was really good as I got a lot of information from there. Practically all I needed on the subject of women in flamenco culture.

The second place I went to is much less expensive than the first, and you get the same thing. Also, the Jerez sherry is better. It is called Tabanco A la Feria. It looks closer to a peña though it isn’t, but the atmosphere is similar. As opposed to El pasaje which looks more like a ….tablao that is trying too hard 😅

They recorded part of the show, but it’s not the best recording : https://fb.watch/dln5K6oZfY/

These were the performers announced for the night:

The actual performers – turns out only the dancers was different, and for the first show, the singer is not the one announced. Can’t trust anyone  anymore 😆:

She does like to wear that apron on top of the dress. 🙄 And don’t tell me that it is ok because women do it. We do carry on the stereotypes we were raised with. The younger we were when am idea was fed to us the easier it is to believe it and act accordingly, and the harder it is to get rid of it later even if you know better, especially if you keep bumping into the same stereotype along your life. For instance, I was talking to a woman from Jerez and she said that she married and had children early because that’s what they were thought to do, and at 38 she decided that it’s not worth staying in a relationship that doesn’t work and where she has no support no matter what others say. She divorced, but then instead of pursuing a career which she always wanted to do but didn’t have a chance, she remarried. And it’s not that her new husband wouldn’t have supported her if she had chosen to have a career, but she thought that was too late at 38. Somehow my 33 are ok, but 38 is too late. Talking to another woman from Barcelona I got a bit of an incline where the 30s is too late is coming from. She was saying about her grandson of 11 that he didn’t chose to study arts though he likes drawing and she was a bit disappointed because she would have liked him to be an artist. He is 11. I studied computer science and then art. Not to mention at 11, I had no idea what I wanted to do exactly. Most flamenco artists started being professionals really young or were enrolled in the conservatory at 11 or younger. I thought that was a gypsy thing, but it’s a Spanish thing actually. They specialize really young.

I didn’t see any shows in Cadiz because there was only one being performed everyday, by a flamenco band that opened their own bar. However it was sold out in advance. There were a lot of tourists. Between the feria and the carnavale that will start on the 2nd of June, but the city was already decorated and events were taking place on the weekend, the city was packed with tourists. The peñas opened only on Friday and Saturdays, and I left Saturday morning. Also, the peña La Perla de Cadiz was closed for renovation, so all in all it was bad timing. The only peña that had a show that Friday was supposedly all booked, though when I entered in it, only two tables had the sign reserved on them. I wasn’t the only tourist who came, but they left none of us in. The other group actually tried to make a reservation in advance and couldn’t. It was quite a small place. La Perla de Cadiz is huge by comparison.

Back in Seville, I was pretty fed up with flamenco. I did go to the festival La primavera en Tomares because I wanted to see Alba Molina with Las niñas. Estrella Morente, who I knew of but didn’t like much, and Rosario Flores, she seemed to be the headline of the show whoever she is, were also performing. What happened is that when Estrella Morente came on stage I was hooked. I fell in love with her presence, her voice is so much more powerful and expressive than on recordings. She came on stage with a fan, and after a few dramatic and very effective movements with it she set herself on the chair and started singing. 😍 That voice and the way she sings…

I didn’t know much about her at the time, except that she is the daughter of Enrique Morente, who is considered one of the geniuses of flamenco. I do recommend the album Omega. It became obvious that she is from Granada, since she sang to songs about it while being in Sevilla. She did sing a sevillana as well, from Lola Flores, which she dedicated to her grandmother, “as always”. It was a particularly emotional moment as her grandmother died only a week before. When she was about to sing: “pena, penita, pena” which is sang with force and great emotion, her voice broke and she started crying. The public was amazingly supportive and applaided her until she gathered herself and could carry on the song. I was the only tourist there, by the way. She later apologized for emotions taking over her. I wish we would live in a world where we wouldn’t need to apologize for having powerful emotions. It happens.

Her concert was made of three parts. At the end of each part she would dance her way to the backstage. The second part was just her and a guitarist. It was exactly the kind of flamenco show I wanted to see. 💖 At the end of this part, she got up from the chair singing and went to the backstage singing, and we could hear her voice quite clearly until very close to the backstage. I wasn’t in the front row either. Maybe the 10th….

I did mention the dramatic pauses flamenco performers make during songs. Well, she had such a moment, and the audiance started applauding. Haha. And they weren’t even tourists, they should have known better. I love Estrella though. She started singing Acapella and all went silent. She paused. That pause had to be there. Enjoy the silance. The only thing I heared was someone behind me say “Madre mio” in reference to the vocals she just pulled. She then started singing Acapella again, and later the band joined in.

In the end, when she left the stage, she danced in a playfull manner. We were all laughing. You can tell she has the heritage of a great dancer, her mother, and a brilliant singer, her father.

After this concert, I didn’t need anything else. I wanted to remain with this image as falmenco.

However, when I finally got home in Bucharest, I went to see Eduardo Guerrero. A few weeks before leaving for Sevilla, I found out Eduardo Guerrero was coming to Bucharest, and I wondered why am I going to Sevilla for. 😆 I knew I wasn’t going to see anyone of his status there, so I bought tickets for his show in advance even if I was expecting to be fed up with flamenco coming back.

The show also featured Maria Monero. They performed several traditional flamenco styles, both male and female versions. She, fortunately, has more energy that a traditional bailaora, and he graced us in the third part of the performance with his personal interpretation of flamenco.

There were some great moments. What I liked the most was how they interacted with us without speaking since they had no microphones. Eduardo made us do Palmas, first something with two beats, then four, a tango. I knew that one. 😁 But it didn’t work out so well for most of us. Them he trued to make us snap fingers in two beats, but that was beyond us 😂 However, after Maria finished her part, the apllausses fell into a rythm, and she started dancing to it. So nice. Someone said : “She is stealing all his apllausses”. Hehe, good for her! 😁 There were some flamenco aficionados in the public who were jeleado (yelling Olé mostly). It was a nice atmosphere. What I totally loved was that the public appreciated the singing. At the end when they came.on stage for applies, two by two, the two guitarists, the two singers and the two dancers, people got up for the singers and applaided them almost just as much as the dancers. 💖 Later I heard some people say that they really enjoyed the singing. So nice! It’s an acquired taste for me. I would have been able to appreciate it 5 month ago. Also, they inevitably commented how well she danced even though she is short and not exactly fit. 🙄 There were also some people that were surprised and awed whenever the guitarist was responding to the dancers movements: “did you see? She moved and he played right at that point!” Yeah, that is the mastery of the guitar in flamemco. You need to know how to read the dance and the singing so not to oversteps each other. Same for singers and dancers to pay attention to the guitarist and each other. No matter if the show is coreographed, there is constant communication between the performers on stage. Flamenco is a language.

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