Postcard from Spain
Editors Note:This was sent in by Simone Pope in March 2010. Simone has just returned to her studio in Brisbane and flamenco classes for all level are now underway.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve travelled to Spain over the years, but every trip is different and yet little pieces of past visits always come back to say hello!I thought the last trip was my best ever, but now I’m thinking this one is going to take first place. Maybe it’s because each time I feel just a little bit more at home here in Spain… my Spanish is better, my knowledge and appreciation of Flamenco better, I know how to get around and “enterarme de cosas” better, I know more people here, and Spain is just getting easier…I think it’s a bit of it all. I started my trip in Madrid for a mere week in late January…. just a tantalising look-in! I will have 3 or so days to say good-bye as I leave from Madrid next week. I have spent much time in Madrid over the years. So many memories…from when Amor de Dios was in Calle Fray Luis de Leon and teachers would often smoke during class…unthinkable now!....and the foyer was filled with smoke!....to its current location conveniently located above the Mercados de Anton Martin – so you can buy your pescado for lunch before popping upstairs for class! Amor de Dios continues to be the Flamenco hub of Madrid and I briefly enjoyed classes with old friend “La Truco”, along with the wonderful Pepa Molina and the ridiculously talented Marco Flores. I was fortunate enough to go out with Pepa to see Marco and Olga Pericet (who have graced Aussie shores with Manuel Linan and Belen Maya in Gala Flamenca) at Cardamomo in the famous Calle Echegary. Unbelievably good dancing, and a great cuadro to support them. Of course every time I go to Madrid I’m struck by its splendour. Gran Via, which has just celebrated its 100th birthday continues to be one of the most beautiful city thoroughfares ever, especially at night when it’s art deco building are gloriously lit. Puerta del Sol is as always the crazy heart of the city, but it’s looking pretty good now that they’ve finished the station entrance for the regional trains. The redevelopment of the San Miguel markets is impressive Mercado de San Miguel (picture above) – a beautiful steel and glass building that was once one of the city’s fresh markets has been converted into a huge space where you can have tapas of every kind from every region of Spain, along with drinks and desserts from an assortment of attractive permanent stalls.With some regret I left Madrid. The hard choice with Flamenco, is where to study and base yourself, but I’d made my decision to spend more time in Seville this time…it’s always a juggle between Madrid, Seville and Jerez! My triangle of Flamenco! Seville! I first went to Seville in 1998. Boy has it changed since then! Back in those bad old days you heard about classes through word of mouth…no internet and only a couple of studios. My first classes in Seville were with Javier Cruz at Manolo Marin’s academy and Concha Vargas at La Carboneria (that’s another story!). I’m still in touch with people I met back then.Seville nowadays is another story too! A first class selection of studios to choose from! Manuel Betanzos (who took over Manolo Marin’s studio and will soon be in Australia giving flamenco workshops), Alicia Marquez, Andres Marin, Estudio Ados (Isabel Bayón y Angel Attierez), Juan Polvillo….all have their own studios with various fantastic teachers. Then there’s Taller Flamenco and the Fundacion Cristina Heeren etc etc. Back in the bad old days you walked and walked and walked from one very hard to find studio to another. Now you jump on your well maintained Sevici bicycle and you’re in Triana from Plaza San Lorenzo in 10mins. Soooo much more enjoyable. I think the highlight of my day here right now is riding across the Puente de Santa Isabel at night from Triana after classes, and seeing the beautifully lit Giralda sitting quietly and grandly behind the profile of old buildings that form the centre of Seville. As you cross the river you take in all the early evening activity….the rowers on the river, the constant flow of people strolling and chatting and enjoying the mild warmer evenings and of course the unforgettable sounds of the drums and high pitched brass as the bands practice for Semana Santa. Bliss. And then there’s Jerez. The wonderful Festival de Jerez which I believe is officially now the biggest Flamenco Festival in the world. As Sebastian Sanchez said it’s a bit like the Woodford Folk Festival. Every year is like you never left. It’s exhausting and fantastic all at once. You are supersaturated with Flamenco, fino, tapas, and more Flamenco. You run into people you met there 5 years ago or meet friends for the first time. Great friendships are forged at this wonderful festival and I think it’s because everyone is there for their love of Flamenco. This year was particularly special with standout shows from a lot of Madrid based performers…..Olga Pericet, Ruben Olmo and Jesus Fernandez all had amazing and very different shows. Seville´s Isabel Bayón danced solo for about 90 mins nearly non-stop in her beautifully conceived solo show. Jerezana Leonor Leal (now based in Seville and teaching at Andres Marin’s academy) make me cry with her stunning, honest dancing in her solo show. La Choni, also based in Seville, put on one of the funniest flamenco shows I have seen. “La Gloria de mi Madre” - really flamenco pantomime which was clever, hilarious and nostalgic all at once. Add to that the huge array of workshops….my choice this year was Andres Pena and Mercedes Ruiz. Both great teachers on top of being outstanding performers and super nice people. I will be doing my damndest to be there next year! Must go and get my fill of flamenco as my days here are running out. I will miss the sounds of the church bells, the Semana Santa bands, the constant chatter at the checkout at the supermarket…the dogs (always happy!) running loose in the streets and local plazas, the chaos of traffic between pedestrians, cyclist and cars, the congregations of people having tapas on the footpaths, the horses and carriages, the cobblestones jolting my body as I cycle….the Rio Guadalquivir, the Catedrál, the dry heat….….but I won’t miss the dog poo on the footpath haha! Hasta la próxima! Simone Pope