To know flamenco, is to immerse yourself in it. The dance is truly expression, so there is only one way to learn it.
In Sevilla, I visited this place called La Carboneria. It was a small place located somewhere in the narrow streets of the city. When I entered the place, it was simple, old, and most of all, intimate. There was no big stage, no big lights and no velvet seats for the guests.
At the back of La Carboneria, was a seating section made of picnic like tables and chairs. A tablao, or small stage was situated in front of the seating section. Three people showed up. One was the dancer, the other the guitarist, and the third was the singer.
There was no introduction, only the clapping of the hands, all three seated in chairs. The guitarist started and soon, the singer. At this point, no dancing.
The flamenco singer is intense. He or she starts low, but builds up the intensity during the song. The singer at the Carboneria was so intense, he actually lifted himself out of the seat with such a fierce almost yell and redness in the face. After a couple of beats, he sat down and continued singing, going back to a low voice and clapping. His words were of a hurting type of love.
Among the three, there is this communication with the eyes. The performance was raw and there was no rehearsal so to speak. The guitarist would look at the singer and vice versa as the performance continued throughout the night. About fifteen minutes into the performance, the dancer finally made her entrance.
An entrance is slow, and like the singer, the intensity builds up. The guitarist does his structure of music, usually a twelve count beat. He stresses certain beats, while the dancer stresses different beats within the twelve. Soon, all three are in a complex art form.
While she progressed throughout her performance, the crowd delighted in the dancer's footwork. She owned that tablao, with her amazing fast feet, lifting the dress above the knee and most of all, the expression in her face and movement fascinated the crowd.
Like the singer, the dancer became so intense that she, at times, slapped her thighs, clapped her hands and then passionately threw her hands in the air. Then, like coming out of a dream, she slowed her movement down, standing still, keeping that intense look on her face.
I and others felt what she felt, whatever it was she was feeling at the time. The singer, the guitarist laid out the foundation for such an emotional roller coaster ride. It is amazing what the heart feels when a group of flamenco artists perform.
Robin Totton wrote Song of the Outcasts. It is a great book about flamenco. He suggested that the art is pure expression and the only way to become familiar with the art form is to become part of it. La Carboneria is one of the most amazing spots in Sevilla, Spain. Make the trip and become immersed in flamenco.