Friday, 14 September 2007

Flamenco revisited

Those of you that have the patience to read my blog and the time to comment seem to have enjoyed hearing about my evening with Lee, Alma, Ian, Dolly and Flamenco. Well, so did I. So much that tonight's blog will be devoted to Flamenco!

On leaving Ian, I hurriedly wrote out my telephone number so that he could contact me the next time he and Alma were going to the Flamenco Club here in Buenos Aires.

"free on Friday night?+ Flamenco+ Cantares in Rivadavia 1180 +11pm +show starts midnight + table booked + see you there+ ian"

Rivadavia is about 15 minutes walk from my apartment in Tucuman, so on Friday night I set off just before 11 pm down Corrientes and across along Av 9 de Julio. A quick right turn into Rivadavia and there, almost hidden between grey, boarded buildings was 'Cantares'. A small sign swung in the light evening breeze and the sound of music and laughter ascended from the basement below street level. Ahead of me a turned marble staircase was lined with pictures of Flamenco dancers, one in particular, a tall athletic young man with a unfathomable look in his eyes. From the grace of the staircase the entry through the basement doors to the club was a surprise. It was full of light, noise and people talking excitedly at crammed together tables. Here were all ages, but predominantly and notably young, beautiful, lithe, Argentine women with the jet black hair and olive skin of Flamenco dancers. Our table was right across the room by the stage and the mention of Alma's name produced the immediate reaction of an embrace from the proprietor. This was clearly the heart of Flamenco in Buenos Aires!

We had skipped the meal and booked for 'show only' at a cost of 30 pesos (£5) per person. For this we had a stage side table, sparkling water, tapas and the show. A bottle of Malbec added another 20 pesos. We exchanged hugs and kisses - both the men and the women kiss here on meeting. We had time to toast the evening and then the show began.

First to the stage was the club proprietor, a strong, engaging woman, who took the audience on a dramatic and expressive monologue - like a spoken Fado - about somewhere called Grenada in Spain. The Castillano speaking audience sat with rapture following her words, whilst I followed the music of her voice and the picture of a lost continent somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic sea. Then the musicians and dancers arrived. The forty year old guitarist wore a woollen jacket and glasses, and looked as if he had stumbled from a ministry office somewhere in the city. But as he started to play, music rolled and peeled from his Flamenco guitar like a dream. Rhythms wove with cross rhythms accompanied by percussive raps on the side and fret of the instrument. Soon he was joined by a young, slight woman a who sang with a deep sumptuous voice, and then by her partner, German - tall, dark, dramatic, singing whilst he rapped the sound box on which he sat. His voice was light as a spring breeze, then dark, powerful and expressive like the rush of a waterfall; but his drumming was totally explosive. It was so fast and rhythmical - from automatic gun fire - to a cricket in a tree, with the gentle roll of his fingers.

And the dancers? Yanina, a petite dancer with dark hair pulled back from her face, wore a long Flamenco dress in blue and white fitting tightly to her slim body. She danced magically, with a softness, suggestive of her femininity, but her quick step work linked rhythms with the drummer, creating strong, fast and furious patterns of dance and sound, amplified by the percussive stage.

Soon the audience erupted, as Claudio climbed to the stage. Wearing a white suit with a long jacket, tall, dark, with hair pulled into a pony tail, very slim, almost slight, this was the man whose image appeared on the stairs. He is the dance professor at the academy upstairs, to which people come from all over Latin America and even from Spain. As he danced he had a distant look in his eyes and a strength which was huge, eclipsing his frame and capturing his audience. His footwork was extraordinary, fast and precise, and utterly explosive! We were lost in his dream and his performance.

By the end of the evening, we had travelled with the singers, players and dancers to unknown places, tasted the smell of the soil of southern Spain, felt the sun on our faces, and passed through a life time of emotion! As the performers left the stage we finished our Malbec in a state of euphoria, our hands stinging. Those of us that dance tango reflected inside about the difference in passion and intensity of the dances and wondered if our tango would ever feel the same as this!

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