Flamenco in Barcelona

dancing

It is quite simply, ridiculous. Same goes for Madrid for that matter or Bilbao or pretty much anywhere that isn’t Andalusia.

For the same reason that truffles can only grow where you find them and a wine tastes differently when shipped half way around the world, Flamenco really cannot be exported from the land in which it was born and raised. Yes, you can see an elegant performance such as this. While exact and fluid, it is as if you had taken a Formula One car and given it a leather interior and air bags. The rough, brash corners have been polished off and while consumable for the masses, it pales to its original.

And that original is more like this. Sloppy and nearly drunk with itself. The clapping is irregular. The music is far from perfect. But, the beat is more true than what you see upon some stage you were seemingly told would be “authentic” Flamenco by a teenager wearing a placard and handing out freshly copied fliers on Les Rambles.

Flamenco insists upon audience participation and for this I always placed it in the same camp with clowns. My distrust was so much that I made a short film mocking it. But wandering in to a neighborhood bar in Jerez after attempting to nap off an insane hangover from an intense Sherry tasting, I was greeted by the raspy, uneven singing of a girl and her guitarist accompaniment whose exact precision with the instrument only pushed her throaty words further.

People clapped in splatters like the first drops of rain to hit your windshield. They clapped in a way I don’t understand as I was trained to keep steady rhythm whereas an Andalusian audience will drop out beats here and there. The stomping of their feet was similar. I was too mechanical and keeping too strict a beat. Despite being exactly in time, I was missing the point.

One middle aged woman stood up and danced in heels. She sat down and a man of similar age stood up to take her place. Not drunk or perhaps just a little, they all knew the moves and danced them well. Seeing a trio of little girls in the street bedecked in shoes and traditional dresses on my last day in Jerez, my question was answered as to if they start at an early age.

A man in the audience cried. He, was admittedly drunk and bugging the hell out of his wife who had to constantly remind this man I shall call, Paco to shut up. Paco didn’t and he kept calling out to the singer as most everyone did while none of it phased her.

Apple will not introduce some “genius” app that will reproduce this by pointing a phone at it although many in attendance still tried. You could pick up that little bar and the 15 or so people watching, plunk them down in whatever town you like and those of us around this group would only be spectators, not participants. And this is why, you need to find some small place, tucked away from the center, in some dusty part of Andalusia, and enjoy a night of Flamenco. It doesn’t matter if you can’t understand what’s being said or question whatever is offered to drink, just make sure you’re not doing this in Barcelona.