As I sit in a quaint establishment in the heart of Granada’s Albaycin masticating on the best pork cutlet I have ever eaten (so good it resembles prime rib), the lights go dim. I know what that means. I have done this before.
Beside me is a thorn in my side from Brazil. He sits in his nice blue suede jacket holding a Smart phone. It is in video mode. I am annoyed because I cannot see around it.
This is significant because I am sitting second line to the little stage where the best Flamenco troupe I have seen at this level have positioned themselves. There are five in the group. I ask myself one important question.
Can so much power come from one guitar, one drum, one voice and two pairs of feet?
Normally during a flamenco show, I would expect an average performance with some painful caterwauling that I would have to learn to ignore for the sake of the dance. From time to time I would take my eyes off the beautiful girl and her intense movements to glance over at the tremendous finger work of the guitarist.
But this is no average troupe; I have seen this flamenco group before.
The classical guitarist is easy on the eyes; he leads off the show mesmerizing me. He has such a unique look about him. There is simplicity to his complex movements across fret and string up and down the neck of the guitar. He looks confident, concentrated and intelligent. And humble.
It is as if he knows in a moment all eyes will leave him for the rest of the night. He will soon fade into the background. There is a beautiful humility about him.
This troupe is classy. They have color coordinated themselves in a black and gold fashion, adding to their authenticity. There is no doubt they are gitanos and are about to give us some proper flamenco.
The singer is very sexy. Her look adds to the package with her widow’s peak and dimpled chin. She is a bit meaty. Unnerved. Ready to get on with it. From out her mouth proceeds some of the most tolerable flamenco and from time to time it sounds lovely. I rarely say that.
Two dancers come on and I try desperately to see around the Brazilian’s arm and Smart phone to absorb myself in the footwork of the dance. They are man and woman and have some chemistry performing together. He is a strong presence but knows not to overshadow his partner yet he is her anchor.
They dance with conviction for a moment. Now from the five pure flamenco is unveiled and the power rises with the angst. It is dramatic. The pounding of the cajon and the feet on the wooden stage echoes through the room. The claps and the guitar join them in perfect time. It is tight. Well rehearsed. Universal.
My blood grows warm at the sight and sound of their performance; I know how difficult it is to produce solid flamenco. Instantly, I want to achieve something of the same, some perfection in art. Expertise. To be really good at something so I can give something back. I am so inspired I wish to inspire.
My observations continue and I am curious. What is the male dancer thinking about as he stomps away intensely? What is the female dancer thinking as she fixates upon the audience?
She looks tired. A bit warn. Even so, she gives it her all as her feet move like lighting clicking away in perfect rhythm. She lifts her black and tan dress as she taps away to show us. The strands of her black braid are coming out; her hair is messy, and I begin to believe that messy hair is a sign of a really good flamenco dancer.
The thin black locks on the male dancer are long and stringy. When he isn’t dancing, it doesn’t look good. But when he is and it falls onto his cheek, it wouldn’t seem right for his hair to be any other way. I notice that he must also be a classical guitarist; the fingernails on his left hand are short, while he fingernails on his right hand are long for strumming.
Both he and she have so much power under control. The dancers take turns amazing us before they take a break. Meanwhile the guitarist and drummer come back into the scene. The singer joins them briefly. Then, after an hour-long show, it is time for the conclusion, which takes another heart-pounding ten minutes. Ten extra minutes that no one was expecting. A kind gift that no one would turn down.
The troupe give us everything they have in them. It is packaged and performed with such beauty and precision. It is powerful. Dynamic. They are some of the best Flamenco artists in the city. What a privilege to see them again. I leave with some strong imagery and a huge desire to be really good at something. And I thought I was just going to watch some people sing and dance for an hour while I ate a nice meal…
Written by Jori Sams