The theater is dark – so dark that I can’t even see those who are sitting on either side of me. We are all completely silent in anticipation of the show. Suddenly, a pale light illuminates the sole guitar player on the stage and he begins to play. It’s a slow tune, and even though there are no words, I can sense the cante, or song, is an emotional one. Another man enters the stage, and his soulful voice fills every inch of the small theater. He sings loudly and with such passion that I almost don’t notice that more lights are beginning to turn on. As he finishes his song, a tall, striking dancer in her traditional red attire, sashays onto the middle of the stage. A quick glance at all of us and then her heels become our music. She whips across the stage in a flurry of movement – her dress swishing from side to side as she dances and claps and snaps her way to the end of the song. There’s a half-second of silence as we all come out of the trance she’s put us into, and then the applause is nearly as deafening as her song.
This is our introduction to the world of flamenco dancing in Seville. There are only four performers – the guitarist, the singer, and two dancers. Throughout the show, the dancers perform solo until the end when everyone comes together for the grand finale. This is the only time we are allowed to photograph their baile, which while disappointing at first, ultimately made the show much more enjoyable since I didn’t spend the entire hour struggling to capture that one perfect shot. An elusive one that would have been, too, considering the dark setting and the subjects whose quick movements my autofocus was no match for.
A widely popular attraction throughout much of Spain, flamenco dancing has its roots in the Andalusia region. Seville, specifically, is a particularly popular place to experience this piece of Spanish culture. Highly regarded festivals celebrating the art take place here annually and biannually, but you need not have your trip coincide with one of these festivals to experience the flamenco scene. In Seville, you’re spoiled for choice – flamenco dancing performances ranging from free late-night shows in bars and restaurants to expensive, glamorous dinner theater acts are available all throughout the city every day of the year.
Unwilling to shell out the necessary cash for the flashier, dinner-and-a-show performances, but just as unwilling to stay up until 1am to catch a free one, we settled on something right in the middle. Using Rick Steve’s article as a guide, Casa de la Memoria was our venue of choice, and what our show may have lacked in props and number of performers, it more than made up for in quality and intimacy. We paid just €46 for the three of us – money well spent for an hour’s worth of truly captivating entertainment.
Inside Casa de la Memoria, there are only two rows of seating around the stage and a small balcony section above, which means there aren’t any bad seats in the whole place. Since everyone in the audience is seated right up next to the stage, the performances here feel very intimate and personal, something I really appreciate when seeing any type of show. However, by the same token, since this is a small place, all sound is drastically magnified. I was totally unprepared for just how loud the sound of the dancers’ shoes meeting the floor would be. While kind of alarming at first, after the initial shock the thundering of their feet made the performance that much more powerful.
When in Spain, especially the south, experiencing the flamenco scene is a must, unless, of course, you don’t like music or dancing. And I probably don’t need to mention this to you, my well-mannered readers, but always be respectful when at the shows. Flamenco cantes can be very intense songs and the singers perform them with a lot of passion – this was clearly too much for a couple girls in the crowd with us. Every time the singer would begin to sing, they’d cause a disturbance with their attempts to disguise their laughter – very distracting for the rest of us in the audience and certainly very disrespectful to the performers. Other than that, we thoroughly enjoyed our first flamenco dancing experience. Next time we’re in Spain, I may even be up for taking a lesson to learn a little baile myself!
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