Two weeks ago, I travelled to the Oslo International Flamenco Festival with my teacher, flamenco dancer Elina Robinson and flamenco singer Anna Murtola. My thoughts and feelings on some of the aspects, and especially the great re-encounter with maestra Rafaela Carrasco, can now be read on the Minna en el Mundo page of the blog.
This post will also be published in the Minna en el Mundo -section of this blog.
Some might think that it is nearly insane to willingly travel to Spain at the hottest time of the year, but for me, the turn of July to August is the time of the best flamenco courses. For this reason, it is also the time to travel to Spain.
Having missed maestra Rafaela Carrasco‘s courses at the XX Helsinki Flamenco Festival in February, I was enthralled to attend her summer courses in Centro de Baile Jerez at the beginning of August. And she was every bit as wonderful as I had heard. A true professional with a deep understanding of the tradition of flamenco, she was able to teach us a not only the technique of flamenco but also a fabulous tangos de malaga choreography in five days. To describe her skill and warmth in words is difficult but to say that she is unique would perhaps do her the most justice. What a joy to learn from her, but also, what a joy to finally visit Jerez and to study in Centro de Baile Jerez, a school so well run by its owners.
In Madrid I returned to the prestigious and legendary Amor de Dios flamenco academy to attend shortly the fifth edition of Veranos Flamencos de Amor de Dios directed by maestros María Juncal and Alfonso Losa who I have had the pleasure to study with before both in Helsinki and in Madrid. To study especially technique with María Juncal is always a revelation with her strong feet but also a very feminine body work which is a skill I increasingly notice I need. Alfonso Losa with his pedagogical skill is always a pleasure to study with and we will see him in Helsinki again soon. I was also fortunate to study these few days with maestra La Lupi whose emphasis on the feeling of flamenco and understanding of music made her solea de Cadíz even more inspiring to learn.
Even though we are fortunate to study in Helsinki with fabulous teachers and to have frequent visits of Spanish maestros, I find it inspiring to study and see flamenco in its home country. To see and study flamenco in Spain is to see and study it in its own cultural context. Therefore it is also important for me to see tablao performances when in Spain. I am of course lucky enough to have as my traveling partner a husband who recognizes this need and is willing to assist. Therefore we saw flamenco both in Madrid in Tablao Las Carboneras and in Jerez de la Frontera in La Guarida del Angel.
Madrid has a vast array of renowned tablaos with talented performers frequenting them. Tablao Las Carboneras is one of them and we were lucky enough to see Nino de los Reyes – another flamenco star I have had the pleasure to learn from – performing with his wife Triana Maciel and other great performers such as Pino Losada in guitar. Although I was enthralled to see these great performers, I was especially touched by the spirit and the love between them. This is what is so essential to flamenco. Unfortunately we did not see this spirit in La Guarida del Angel. The performers were skilled technically but the love was not there. And when there is no love, there is no flamenco, just technical execution of music and dance. This was a great shame especially as La Guarida del Angel, an old synagogue, gave the evening such an amazing backdrop.
For setting La Guarida del Angel had one over Las Carboneras, but if you wish to see flamenco with a feeling, I cannot recommend a visit, especially during the tourist season in August. The case may be different during flamenco festival season, I urge you to go and see. When it comes to tablaos in Madrid, Las Carboneras was artistically every bit as good as Casa Patas, which I have visited before on numerous occasions. However, if you wish to have dinner or enjoy a few drinks, I do recommend Casa Patas for its more economic prices and amazing food. Having said that, with either one, you cannot go wrong. The talent will be there which ever you choose.
This text is from summer of 2015 when I had my first flamenco classes in Spain while living in Barcelona for two months. The text has previously been published in Minna en el Mundo on 28.7.2015. It can also be found in the Minna en el Mundo -section of this blog.
On this trip I also got to experience what it is like to take flamenco classes in its original environment. Really exciting! From Cornellà de Llobregat, near Barcelona, I managed to find a school that had courses by renowned flamenco maestros during the weekends. My first experience with the school was quite astounding as when I arrived for the first class, I found that it had started a half an hour too early. Spanish sense of time upside down…
I took part in two so called master classes, short courses of two days. My first teacher was a really sweet and incredibly talented yound bailaora from Jerez, Gema Moneo. She taught us a really fiery bulerias, well, I don’t know if taught is the right way to say it… Maybe she showed us what she wanted and then we had to try to comply. Really not my strongest skill… but at least I got to practise that! The second course was taught by Alfonso Losa, who was at least a bit familiar from his course in Helsinki in March. Losa taught us three hours of bulerias on Saturday and three hours of tangos on Sunday and a bit of technique in the beginning of each day. The material was typical Losa, I felt like I should have been moving into three directions at once. However, the persistent technique training from the spring paid of as Losa did show me that my technique was quite good although there is a lot of work to be done with my speed.
I did not manage to learn or memorize a lot of material from these two courses but the most important thing was that I had the courage to go and that I survived in really tough company in a completely unfamiliar surroundings. I learned once again how much I can already do and, on the other hand, got a reminder of how much there is still to learn. But, I have the rest of my life to learn! And the most important lesson was that it was not the end of the world that I did not learn everything. In fact, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I hadn’t managed to learn any material at all!