Flamenco is a great example of all that we don’t know about other places and their cultures.
When we first started to read about Jerez de la Frontera, we discovered that Jerez is famous for three things: sherry, horses, and flamenco. The crazy part of this is that we had no interest in any of the three. Or so we thought.
Our houseguests, son Josh and Tanya, suggested we all go to see flamenco one night. After a little research about where to go, we settled on the historic Tabanco El Pasaje.
The performance started at 10pm, and we got a reservation for one of only a handful of tables. It was suggested we arrive at 9:30pm to order our drinks and food (a required minimum for the table was 25 euros). Since there was no payment for the performance, we thought that was quite reasonable. All we knew was that there would be a singer, guitarist, and a dancer. Apparently many venues will have one or two performers but not all three.
None of us knew anything about flamenco but were very excited as we took our seats just a few feet from the makeshift “stage”, a raised platform that seemed impossibly small.
The evening had been great fun, and we knew we’d go back for another performance. Meanwhile we wanted to know a little more about what we’d seen. Flamenco probably originated with gypsies who migrated to the area from India in 1425. “Its original form was only voice, a primitive cry or chant accompanied only by the rhythm which would be beaten out on the floor by a wooden staff or cane.”
The area of Spain where flamenco flourished and where the songs originated is called the “Golden Triangle”. The triangle stretches from Cádiz to Jerez de la Frontera to Triana in Seville.
Up until the 19th Century, flamenco was performed in homes or for small gatherings. In the 20th Century, clubs began to form and competitions started to take place.
Flamenco’s influence was evident throughout the town. We saw people singing together at cafes or playing guitars when we were out on our walks. Many shops sell the amazing outfits the dancers wear – and the shoes.
What better way to get a glimpse into the culture of Jerez than to experience flamenco? We suppose we could have expanded that to learning more about the horses and sherry that have made Jerez famous, but we’ll save that for another visit.