Flamenco dance in Seville – worth it’s weight in gold
With a passion for travel with a difference, Grace Law of Bath was thrilled when her boyfriend Richard bought her our flamenco dance weekend course in Seville for her Christmas.
Grace loved the course so much that she has now made a GoLearnTo.com holiday wishlist, as well as an insightful blog about her experience. So for those thinking of flamenco dance courses look no further, here’s a glimpse into Grace’s flamenco dance diary…
“Thoughts on my NotInTheGuidBooks.com experience? Worth its weight in gold! It was a very well thought out package with authenticity and quality clearly in mind – no tourist trash here. Would I book again? In an instant! In fact their website should come with a warning: IT WILL SUCK YOU IN.”
Starting on Friday at 6pm, I went straight from work to the school. It was easy to find, located on Calle Peral one of the streets leading off the Alameda de Hércules (a buzzing hub of tapas bars and children shrieking in the spray of cooling water fans). As I approached, I could hear telling claps and chords being strummed from a flamenco guitar.
As I was early, the lovely receptionist invited me to join a flamenco party that had been in swing since 2pm. As she ushered me up the stairs, offered me a drink and sat me at the table, I realised that the music hadn’t been coming from a classroom at all, but from the roof. As well as the locals, there were Americans, Russians, Japanese and Germans and, of course, me, the little Brit in the corner, all basking in the sunshine on the terrace. Everyone had nothing but praise for the school and its staff so I was excited to get started.
The five of us made a lovely group, two Canadians and three Brits. Carmen was a wonderful teacher, guiding us through our first tentative steps and stamps. It was hard to believe that those ‘basic’ rhythms we were taught make up the fast and furious combinations you see the professionals use – at 100mph, its hard to distinguish left foot from right, let alone distinguish the actual movements their making.
My only worry about the courses of Go Learn To was that they are clearly intended for tourists. I was worried that we would get a tourist friendly experience (as in ‘Well done, you’re doing great’ when in fact you look like walrus having a fit) rather than an authentic experience where you actually learn something, are corrected on your mistakes and helped to improve.
I needn’t have worried about that, I can tell you! Carmen was a hard taskmaster and had us doing thing within the first hour that we never imagined we’d achieve in the whole course! We exchanged pained faces when her back was turned, convinced we’d screw up the latest combination she’d given us, but were usually pleasantly surprised (and if not, we laughed it off!).
After an hour and half of stamping (the poor neighbours), we headed upstairs to our class of compás and palmas. Who knew clapping could be so darn complex?! Our teacher explained not only the bases and accents of the rhythms but how they combine with the other accompanists (the singers and the guitarists), the hierarchy of accompanists, which rhythms belong to which music style, which rhythm would accompany each stage of the dance…I was almost dizzy!
Feeling accomplished, at the end of day one, us Brits rewarded our efforts with a sharing plate of tapas and a well deserved glass of wine…
To our horror, the first thing our teacher Lydia asked us was which style of palmas we’d learnt in our final lesson yesterday and whether we could repeat them for her. Turns out those were the rhythms that we were going to translate in to footwork today…whoops! Luckily, she was also a fan of diagrams and soon her white board filled with memory jerking scribblings of yesterdays compás and palmas. Soon enough we were double stamping with the best of them and styling our arms, wishing we were swishing around in voluminous, spotted dresses.
After a quick break we switched back to Carmen’s room for an intense two hours of choreography. Combination, watch,repeat, again, on the other foot, whilst standing on your head! It was quite a bit to take in, but soon we had our own mini routine going, showcasing all the things we’d learnt.
Free from 2pm until 9pm, we had the afternoon at our leisure. After some cafe hopping, it was time for La Casa de La Memoria (our show venue for the evening) . Thanks to our impeccable English-ness (read earliness) we were first in the queue and managed to snaffle front row, centre stage seats.
A very intimate gathering (they aren’t kidding when they advertise limited seats!), every stamp of the dancers feet and every piercing high note the singer hits reverberate off the walls.
What I liked most about the show at Casa de La Memoria was that everyone got their chance to shine, the singer, the guitarist and the individual dancers. I loved that there was very little pomp and ceremony, just commitment to art. If you want to see girls in brightly coloured spotty dresses parading around then this isn’t the show for you. Its gritty and passionate with not a polka dot in sight. If you want flamenco posers, you can find them in most bars in town. Casa de La Memoria amazed us with their artists – expect to fear getting kicked in the face, and feeling the occasional bead of sweat being flicked your way if you’re near the front (all part of the experience of course).
I will certainly be taking visitors here to catch of a glimpse of the authentic flamenco and the fiery gypsy spirit.