Summer in Spain equals Flamenco

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.

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Madrid is flamenco

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.

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Centro de Baile in a residential area in Jerez de la Frontera

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.

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Entry to Amor de Dios Flamenco Academy

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.

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La Guarida del Angel in Jerez old town

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.

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Show in Las Carboneras with Pino Losada, Lucía de Miguel, Triana Maciel and others

 

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.

 

 

 

Batácora premiered at Tampere Flamenco Festival

The stage is bare apart from four figures, the bass player Dile Kolanen plays his instrument in the corner. There are three figures on stage wearing black bata de colas. Wait, three… this is supposed to be a duet… yet there appear to be three dancers on stage…

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Photo from Tampere Flamenco Festival instagram page by photographer FotoMarkku

 

These were my initial reactions to Batácora, the duet of flamencas Maija Lepistö and Marja Rautakorpi, which premiered on Tampere Flamenco Festival on Friday 29th June, 2018. Moments later all became clearer as the piece advanced to rhythmic work on the black flamenco floor and the third person lying on the floor was revealed to be cantaora Alicia Acuña. And what a singer she was! Basing her work on the combination of voice and motion, she was constantly united to the movement of the bailaoras, a true collaborator to the dance, which was emphasized by the ingenious decision to clothe her identically with the two dancers.

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Photo from Tampere Flamenco Festival instagram page by photographer FotoMarkku

The piece ebbed and flowed together with the fascinating bass, an instrument that is not part of the tradition of flamenco but complements flamenco so well, the simple but efficient lighting of light designer Ville Virtanen, and the strength of the singer who was more a part of a trio than an accompaniment to a duet. And what a joy to see these two bailaoras, Maija Lepistö, a much admired dancer and choreographer, and Marja Rautakorpi, a fresh, newer talent, as they showcased not only their incredible versatility but also the versatility of the bata de cola. Having seen both dancers in a more traditional setting at the Helsinki Flamenco Festival this year, it was delightful to see them show their more contemporary and experimental side. Both with flowing body work, I was this time enthralled and inspired especially by their effortless rhythmic footwork and the way they they worked as a duet, being at once strong individuals and part of a team.

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Photo from Tampere Flamenco Festival Instagram page by photographer FotoMarkku

Although one might think that the piece was quite short, approximately 30 minutes, I believe that true wisdom and insight was shown here by choreographers Lepistö and Rautakorpi as the audience was left wanting to see more. I for one am waiting for the next opportunity to see and be inspired more by this incredible team of artists! Thank you Batácora team for true inspiration!


This piece can also be read at the Minna en el Mundo -section of this blog and will form a part of my flamenco text library in English. 

Minna en el Mundo: Spring is the time of recitals

This Sunday’s post is about flamenco recitals, read more under the heading Flamenco content under Minna en el Mundo. The “Cinco Años Juntos” brought together nearly 100 flamenco students and aficionado and professional musicians with an age span from 4 to 84 years to celebrate the five-year co-operation of our profes – teachers, that is –  Elina Robinson and Laura Rintamäki. What a joy to be part of this!

Instagram Travel Thursday / Tänne haluaisin palata

Madrid aina mielessäin…

Ah Madrid, kaupunki, jossa olen käynyt lukemattomia kertoja ja jonne olen aina valmis palaamaan. Jopa niin, että kummastellessani puolisolleni, miksi emme käy enemmän ulkona, hän kysyy, haluanko ennemmin Helsingissä ravintolaan vai matkalle Madridiin. Vastaus on taattu joka kerta! Kävin kaupungissa ensimmäistä kertaa vuonna 2005 ja se oli rakkautta ensi silmäyksellä. Vuosien varrella rakkauttani on lisännyt vuonna 2009 alkanut intohimoinen flamencoharrastukseni ja näistä kahdesta tämä blogipostaus nyt kertoo, Madridista ja flamencomatkailusta Amor de Dios -flamencoakatemiassa.

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La Isabelita -muraali Antón Martin -kauppahallin seinässä. Tässä rakennuksessa sijaitsee legendaarinen Amor de Dios -flamencoakatemia.

Madrid on kaupunki, jossa ei tarvitse (ellei halua) juosta lukemattomissa nähtävyyksissä vaan uskomattoman kauniista kaupungista, sinisestä taivaasta ja eläväisestä tunnelmasta voi ja kannattaa nauttia toreilla ja puistoissa. Yksi omista suosikkipaikoistani Madridissa on Templo de Débod, jonka puistosta avautuvia auringonlaskuja ja näköalaa Casa de Campo -puistoon ja kuninkaanlinnalle monet suuntaavat katsomaan iltaisin. Kaunis on myös Almudenan katedraali kuninkaanlinnaa vastapäätä. Katedraali loistaa kauniin vaaleana päivisin ja kullanhohtoisena auringonlaskun jälkeen.

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Templo de Débod
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Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena

Upean tunnelman ja kauneutensa lisäksi Madrid on minulle nykyään myös rakas flamencoharrastukseni kautta. Legendaarinen Amor de Dios -akatemia on hyvin tunnettu myös Helsingin piireissä ja minäkin uskaltauduin vuonna 2016 lähes seitsemän vuoden harrastuksen jälkeen koululle Helsingissäkin vierailleiden huippumaestrojen María Juncalin ja Alfonso Losan johtamalle Veranos Flamencos de Amor de Dios -kesäkurssille. Osallistuin kokonaisuudessaan neljän viikon koulutusrupeaman ensimmäiselle viikolle keskitasolle (joka vastaa Suomessa noin ylempää jatkotasoa), mikä tarkoitti neljän tunnin yhtäjaksoista treenirupeamaa maanantaista perjantaihin. Vierailevana opettajana tuolla viikolla oli erittäin vaativa Rafael Estevez, jonka kurssista selviämistä pidän edelleen sitkeyden ja periksiantamattomuuden osoituksena. Sen verran kova koulu nuo viisi tuntia olivat kaltaiselleni perfektionistille. Viikon lopussa, varpaat muussina ja sydän onnesta pakahtuen, vannoin palaavani joku vuosi. Ehkä en vielä tänä vuonna, mutta kuitenkin…

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“Älä mukaudu muottiin, etsi oma tyylisi!” lukee Amor de Dios -akatemiaan nousevan portaikon ikkunassa.

Madridissa on myös oiva tilaisuus nähdä flamencoa, niin sanottuja tablaoita on kaupungissa useita ja monet niistä ovat varsin tasokkaita. Suuria nimiä nousee lavalle päivittäin ja kaltaiselleni “aficionadolle” kattaus on aikamoinen. Suosittelen tablaoita myös flamencoa tuntemattomalle, mikäli haluaa nähdä jotain todella espanjalaista. Omaksi valinnakseni useimmiten on valikoitunut Casa Patas -tablao, joka on yksi kaupungin tunnetuimmista ja tablaon ravintolassa olemme puolisoni kanssa nauttineet myös herkullisia illallisia ennen iltakymmenen näytöstä. Ehkäpä ensi kerralla valitsen jonkin muun tablaon, omaa valintaani ohjaa hinta-laatusuhteen lisäksi myös esiintymisvuorossa oleva artisti, mutta Casa Patasta voin suositella kenelle tahansa.

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Casa Patas -flamencotablao

Tänäkin kesänä piipahdan Madridissa vähintäänkin muutaman päivän ajan, vaikka varsinainen kohteemme on tällä kertaa Jerez de la Fronteran kaupunki Andalusiassa. Tuosta matkasta ja flamencotunneista flamencon kehtona tunnetussa Jerezissä paljon lisää tässä blogissa myöhemmin tänä vuonna!

Viva Madrid! Viva el arte flamenco!

Tämä blogikirjoitus on osa Instagram Travel Thursday -tempausta, jonka järjestäjinä toimivat Travellover ja Vagabonda.

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Flamenco in Barcelona

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…

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Escuela de Flamenco Paca García

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!

Flamenco is hot Helsinki

This text can also be found on the Minna en el Mundo -page of this blog. 


The Helsinki flamenco community is an active one and it seems that this Winter and Spring have been especially buzzing with flamenco. We have enjoyed a vast array of performances varying from the very traditional to extremely contemporary. Helsinki Flamenco Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary with nine events within nine days with Compañía Rafaela Carrasco as headliner with its celebrated “Nacida Sombra“. Apart from “Nacida Sombra”, which was greeted with a standing ovation, the festival featured an Opening Club with performances from aficionados, the 8th Children and Youth flamenco biennale, dance courses by Rafaela Carrasco, an open public event of flamenco music “Flamencoa Stagella” at a central library, Finnish evening with Joonas Widenius Trio and the Décadas – Flamencon voimaa – concert, a preview of Impulso, a document of the work of Rocío Molina (showing in collaboration with Espoo Cine and Korjaamo Kino) and a Brindamos Finlandia closing club in collaboration with the Brindamos collective.

Apart from the festival, this Winter and Spring we have been able to enjoy of the traditional tablaos organized by the Brindamos collective, both Brindamos Flamenco featuring artists from Spain and Brindamos Finlandia featuring artists from Finland. On the more contemporary front, Compañía Kaari & Roni Martin premiered in March their new piece Anna Karenina with their trusted artists, the beautiful and expressive Mariana Collado as Anna Karenina and the charming and skilled Carlos Chamorro as Count Vronski , and a very interesting appearance by a Finnish contemporary dance legend, Jorma Uotinen, as Count Karenin. Kaari Martin‘s choreography, Atro Kahiluoto‘s dramaturgy and Roni Martin‘s interesting music together with the skilled dancers made for a great experience. Furthermore, the Katja Lundén Company performed the celebrated Flamenco Sauna performance this week, a piece that premiered in the 2017 edition of the Tampere Flamenco Week.

I have been fortunate as, in addition to having been a part of the production of the festival as the Chair of Helsinki Flamenco Association, I have been able to participate in many of the events produced in the Helsinki flamenco scene.  I enjoy the traditional tablao performances of the Brindamos collective whenever I can and was a delighted member of the audience of the skillful Anna Karenina with my husband and Flamenco Sauna with my mother. For this blog post I have chosen to write a bit more about Flamenco Sauna as the concept of combining the quintessential Spanish flamenco and equally quintessential Finnish sauna is quite an interesting one. The piece starts with the accordion music of Kimmo Pohjonen, entwined in a mystical feeling as the dancers Katja Lundén, Sanna Iranta, Johanna Komppa, Elina Nissinen, Laura Lahe and Laura Viding enter the stage one by one. Quite soon, however, the mood is changed to the more relaxed atmosphere of a girls’ night in a sauna, maybe in a Finnish lake scenery or in a traditional public sauna in the Kallio district of Helsinki. Each viewer can make up their mind on this. However, the feeling of friendship carries through the whole performance.

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Flamenco Sauna graphic design by Laura Viding

The piece represents Katja Lundén’s a bit quirky, contemporary style with very interesting and cool rhythmic sections but also lets each dancer bring forth their own personality and strengths. It is obvious that the group is very comfortable working together and, due to this, the material flows. Katja Lundén’s mastery of her own choreographical style is beyond par, but I am also impressed especially by the relaxed, yet precise use of the body of Sanna Iranta and Elina Nissinen. One of my favorite moments in Flamenco Sauna is the juerga-style tangos where each dancer showcases their own style freely. Especially heartwarming moments are the towel tangos of Laura Viding and the bucket tangos of Elina Nissinen. Flamenco Sauna also gives room for other forms of expression and I was delighted by the slightly humorous monologues by Johanna Komppa and the beautiful singing of Laura Lahe. Overall, this is a very enjoyable piece where the black stage is accentuated with the simple linen dress of the dancers by Erika Turunen, a dress so suited to the imagery of a sauna. A dress also that stands on its own but does not take away from the intrigue of the music and choreography, producing a quite harmonious entity.

As an aficionado and student of flamenco whose aim is to constantly learn and understand more of this fascinating art form, I find it essential to see and hear different kinds of pieces and styles of flamenco. While I find traditional flamenco to be the closest to my heart – both as a dancer and a spectator – it is good to challenge myself with contemporary pieces, with different kinds of expression, to learn more. In Helsinki there is ample opportunity for this. Flamenco truly is hot in Helsinki.

Flamenco Visions @ Nukketeatteri Sampo

This is my first English language flamenco post within this blog. It will be later added to the Minna en el Mundo -page to be part of my flamenco text library. 


Only two days before the second birthday of the premiere of Imperfecto flamenco show, the Imperfecto Collective presents Flamenco Visions, a rendering of what the collective envisions that flamenco is – or can be – for them. The piece incorporates both new material and material from the Imperfecto show in the intimate, and a bit dreamy setting of the charming Nukketeatteri Sampo – a puppet theater – in downtown Helsinki.

Flamenco Visions brings to the stage a tablao setting of flamenco music, song and dance with Juho Koskimies in the guitar and composition, Anna Murtola in the vocals and Elina Robinson as dancer and choreographer. Christian Robinson is in charge of video design and together with Elina Robinson of the overall visual image. The rhythm is kept strong and clear by trusted palmeras Laura Rintamäki and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila and featuring supporting percussionist Christopher Rodulfo, a new addition the team. As is so essential to flamenco, the team works perfectly together, cheering each other on in the perfect moments and supporting each other in the fleeting moments of imperfection. It is evident to the viewer that the team enjoys working together and there is great trust between them.

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The Flamenco Visions banner by Christian Robinson

Once again I was struck with awe with the talent of this team. The compositions of Juho Koskimies are at same time strong and fragile and he seems to be at his best when he lets the moment guide him. Yesterday we heard magical duende take over in the farruca of the second half. I must confess, there were tears in my eyes. Anna Murtola has a voice that I could listen to forever with incredible power but also softness where needed. The star moment yesterday – to my mind – was the tangos also during the second half, where the singer was standing and the dancer – Elina Robinson – danced around her, also a show of complete trust for and togetherness with each other.

The show has been insightfully constructed with video and visual design that stands on its own, but also does not overtake what is going on on stage. Christian Robinson’s strong style and the Robinsons’ cooperation brings forth stunning visuality, especially in the beginning of the show, where we can see Elina Robinson dancing both on the screen and on stage. Elina Robinson’s choreography flows with strong technique and beautiful lyric moments. In the first half we see both a technically and expressionally impressive rendering of the lovely, powerful, but feminine bamberas palo, one of my personal favorites at the moment. However, my favorite moments come during the second half with the above-mentioned tangos where there is a strong connection between co-flamencas and friends Elina Robinson and Anna Murtola, a piece that has previously been a duet with the equally talented Anne Riikola-Sarkkila, but now adapted to a solo. However, for me Flamenco Visions reaches its best moment in the end with Elina Robinson’s siguiriyas solo, a piece I counted I have seen 6 or 7 times, and becomes better with each viewing. It is clear that the piece has grown with the dancer and the dancer with the piece.

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Just moments before… Photo by Jaana Ollila

As I ponder on the fact that the already familiar Imperfecto material feels so much closer to my heart, I come to the realization that in flamenco it is often essential to see or hear pieces several times. With each viewing or listening, the piece is at the same time different but also comes closer to the audience. This reminds me of what the great flamenco artist and maestra María Juncal comments about her piece Quimera (as can be heard on Youtube at moment 4.53 of the linked video):

No es un traje que te puedes cambiar. Viene contigo todos los días. Y por eso creo que flamenco tiene tanta mágia, nunca estás de misma manera quando llegas a un escenario y ni siquiera a un estudio de baile. Tu sentimiento es otro. Tu corazón… tu cuerpo está revuelto de otra manera, sería…

It is not a costume that you can change into. It goes with you everyday. And this is why I think flamenco has such magic. Each time you enter the stage – or even a dance studio – is different. Your feelings are different. Your heart… your body is set up in a different way, it would be…

This is so true, I think, more in flamenco than any other art form (just my personal opinion). Flamenco is so strongly connected to the people doing it and the feelings that they are feeling, the way they body works that day, that each time on stage or in a dance studio is decidedly different. This is why I have seen Imperfecto four times and would see it again, and why for example Elina Robinson’s siguiriyas is magical the 7th time around, and will be so the 8th time, as well. As it is no secret that these artists are very close to my heart, I can only say that I am very lucky to have learned from them, from Laura Rintamäki the variation between the calm and the dynamic, from Anne Riikola-Sarkkila the importance of clean lines, from Anna Murtola the way to listen to the music, Juho Koskimies the daring to improvise and from the Robinsons the uncompromising attitude towards the visual. And Elina Robinson, my longest running flamenco teacher, well, so many things, but I think most of all, the daring to dance with your heart open. I also look forward to hearing much more from Christopher Rodulfo –  and of course to seeing Christian Robinson dance the bulerías next time around. Thank you so much Imperfecto Collective and Flamenco Visions for touching my heart.

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Nukketeatteri Sampo Photo by Liisa Sarén