The real thing: flamenco in Jerez

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.

Here was our introduction to flamenco.

We enjoyed all four components of flamenco: song, tap dance style of footwork, handclapping, and the guitar.

That night at Tabanco El Pasaje, local dancers and a student were invited to come up to the stage to perform.

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.

When we traveled to Cadiz we walked by a series of art panels celebrating the different forms of flamenco music. Soleá originated in Cadiz or Seville and is one of the earliest styles of flamenco, usually conveying pain and despair.

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.

Our daily walk in Jerez de la Frontera took us into a neighborhood with historic placards about flamenco. Then we saw the statue of Francisca Méndez Garrido (1934-2004), a member of one of the great flamenco families and one of the best flamenco singers from Jerez.

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.

 

October 2017

 

 

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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8 Responses to The real thing: flamenco in Jerez

  1. Joe says:

    One of the great joys of travel is the opportunity to learn about something you thought you had no interest in. I applaud you for researching the history of flamenco, in addition to attending an intimate performance. Your post really illustrates this travel learning process, and shows how emotional and fun flamenco can be.

  2. I hate to sound like a whiny American and old on top of it but all the fun things in Spain start too darn late for us! 🙂 We’ve never managed to stay awake much less go out for one of the late night feasts but we did manage to see a great flamenco show in Seville that started at the not-so-witching hour of 9:00 PM. It really was amazing to watch all the passion and fury of the dance! Anita

  3. ssaam2 says:

    That’s great to have fun and learn new things!

  4. Dale Claypoole says:

    Add some long, curly hair and a mustache and that white-haired dude would be a natural.

  5. The show and food started at 10pm – what time do they start work the next day? Another great authentic experience and one not pitched at the tourist. Did they have a slot for visitors to try their hand at dancing?

    • Jerez is very, very quiet in the mornings. Now we know why. Of the three who danced that night – in addition to the featured dancer – two were on a professional level and one had been a student. It’s harder than it looks and even the clapping isn’t possible without a lot of knowledge.

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