Starting Over

Discovering myself, my family and friends in a foreign land, second time around

Celebrating dance

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flamenco

The chairs are arranged along three sides of a square, in a typical courtyard of a house in the Barrio de Santa Cruz. The entrance is deceptive but soon you find yourself seated in a functional foldable chair, looking at a 12 feet X 12 feet wooden stage set firmly in the middle of the courtyard. The fourth side of the square has 3 chairs facing the stage, placed about a foot apart, with a small table with a pitcher of water. The wall behind these is covered with a creeper that has seen many seasons and innunerable performances of the traditional flamenco dance that were are waiting to see. A woman dressed in black comes in with a young bearded man carrying a guitar. Without much ado, she starts singing, a soulful tune, foreign sounding words, maintaining the beat with claps. The male flamenco dancer enters at some point, tapping his feet, using his hands and his body to convey the power of his passion as he dances to the music. At times, the woman is singing in the background, sounding very far away, though she is right behind him. The guitar provides both the melody and the percussion at other times, again seeming to be an unnecessary accompaniment to the force of the performance by the dancer. But there are times when there is no sound other than the tapping of the black-soled shoes on the wooden stage in a still night in this courtyard where the audience holds its breath as it watches him perform. The dance is memorable not because the dancer is able to perform intricate fast-paced footwork impeccably but for his ability to overwhelm and overturn the other artists and relegate them to the background as his joy for the art form spills out and takes over the entire audience.

The guitarist then performs alone, slowing down the tempo and bestowing a sense of calm after the explosive performance of the dancer. The melody and talent of the guitarist appeals in the way that instrumental music tends to do, connect at a higher level by making you listen to something beyond mere words that our ears strive to hear most often.

The beautiful senorita in a figure-hugging red dress, with her hair tied tightly appears. She takes up a striking pose and begins her dance. It is a high energy performance – she moves likes a tightly wound spring, exuding strength, passion and grace with the tapping of her feet and the movement of her hands and body across the tiny stage. Her dress moves likes waves of water around her, fluidly crisscrossing her swaying and tapping form. She seems angry almost, giving off vibrations of extreme emotions as she concludes her performance. Once again, the song and the guitar take a back seat as the dance takes over. Before we know it, there is a crescendo and the performance is done. The audience claps as the artists come in to take a bow, and a second one as the applause continues. And then there is silence as we step out into the narrow bustling lanes of the Santa Cruz quarter on a Saturday evening. The night is young, and so is everyone seated at the bars sipping sangria while waiters handout trays of tapas. The tourists take a look at the lit up cathedral in the night, the bells of the Giralda look down on the square benevolently. And I feel immersed in the history and spirit of Andalusia as I go to bed.

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