Every time another cobblestone is placed on my flamenco path, I become more committed to my journey. Each time I dance, each place I visit, each person I meet, each maestra I learn from, each moment I absorb, all fill my soul just a little more with the joy of flamenco. It is crucial to my flamenco experience to dive deeper not only in class, but outside the walls of the studio, as well.
My recent trip to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain is no exception. Well, there was one exception, I was flying solo. My previous trip to Sevilla was alongside 10 other dancers, teachers, musicians, and significant others, which was absolutely lovely and meaningful. It provided many guides on my trip. Since it was my first trip to Spain, that was perfect. I enjoyed the camaraderie immensely. This time, however, going to Spain alone, I was forced to see things from a completely individual perspective. And that was nothing short of empowering and soul-enriching. And so much fun!!
One thing I became aware of almost immediately in Jerez was a very real sense of community; in the streets, in shops and restaurants, in taxi’s – everywhere I went, people were warm and familiar with one another. They greeted each other with hugs, kisses and words of affection. I saw this displayed over and over again. Everyone was family.
That carried over into the flamenco studio where I took lessons. Maybe being alone made me more open to seeing things, feeling things, but the honest interest and happiness amongst the flamencos I came in contact with, was, without a doubt, obvious and genuine. As it should be.
One example that stands out for me is of the local dancers and musicians gathered in the plaza every night to entertain the passersby and nearby restaurant patrons. Plaza Plateros was always full of activity and was one of my favorite places to eat and people-watch. The flamenco shows were fantastic and puro. I went there several nights, sitting close by, playing palmas. One night, during the street performers break, a young lady sitting at the table next to me reached down and brought out her guitar. She started playing bulerias – and playing well. The group spoke to one another in Japanese but the music transcended any language barriers! The next thing I know, one of the guitarists friends seated with her begins to sing. You could tell the crowd made the cantaora a bit nervous but she continued anyway. People gathered around them to include the street performers. They chimed in with palmas and jaleos and were happily surprised at this spontaneous musical event. One woman from the crowd even started singing with the timid cantaora. The spectators cheered them on, including me, until it was time for the street performers to resume their show. And then, the craziest thing happened – the flamenco guitarist asked the young lady if he could try out her guitar, and proceeded to play the rest of their show with it! Only in Spain!
Teachers, shop owners, taxi drivers, other flamenco students, all asked me questions, eager to hear my flamenco story. I made new friends from the simplist of exchanges. I even became the recipient of the warm, affectionate greeting in the streets when I would run into them again. How lovely!!
When one hears of flamenco in Spain, you mostly hear of Sevilla, Barcelona, Madrid, and Granada. I had not heard of Jerez in that context as often. But, I can tell you now, it was a magnificent flamenco town and experience. It seems the less traveled camino (road) to go to Jerez for flamenco, but it surely caught my attention and made me feel so embraced. My flamenco dancing and flamenco attitude flourished there and I will definitely be back!