Sunday, August 4, 2013

The real world

"In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm... in the real world all rests on perseverance.

Dancing at Peña Niño Alfalfa earlier this year.  

then again, 
"Everything you can imagine is real." 
--Pablo Picasso

To say the least this year has been a gift.  I have been able to focus on my dancing completely.  It's been an almost surreal year immersing myself in flamenco.  Along with taking classes daily, rehearsing, studying the cante/history/dance, I have had no other obligations.  The year was all about me and my dancing and for that I am so thankful and so lucky.  Now, it's back to reality.  This last week I have already been rehearsing for a show I was hired to perform in this fall in NYC.  That means that I no longer spend all my time in the studio working on my choreographies and on improving my technique.  I can't complain, it's a great opportunity to work on something immediately upon arriving in the U.S. and I am learning from the experience.  

Every gig and show is an opportunity to learn and grow but in a different way than studying in the studio.  As much as I love being in this world here where I am completely submerged in studying flamenco, the whole point in studying and creating is to perform and to pass on what I've learned through teaching.    

Nevertheless I have to make sure that even with all the work opportunities that arise I continue to work on my own dancing and dances and continue studying the music as I have been here. I have so many ideas and I will need lots of perseverance to make them reality.  I've already noticed this week that it's hard to do that when you spend all day in the studio learning choreographies for a show.  This coming year will be a huge challenge--my first year working full time as a freelance flamenco dancer.   Balancing working on my own projects with 'outside' work will not be easy.  I'm both excited and nervous and ready for the challenge--there's so much I want to do and share!  

You can follow my events, performances, classes and lectures here:

Friday, August 2, 2013

La ética de la danza

"La gran suerte del ser humano es encontrarse con buenos maestros...
me inculcó desde el principio lo que es la ética de la danza antes de la estética." 
--Antonio Gades

("The best luck a human being can have is finding good teachers...from the beginning I was instilled with what are the ethics of dance before the aesthetic." --Antonio Gades)

Candid photo from Manuela Rios' class.  

I've been incredibly lucky in my life with my dance teachers (and academic teachers) from my first ballet classes with Karen Alwin who was strict as can be and full of tough love to my teachers this year who have taught me more than I could have imagined about flamenco.  I went to my last class with Manuela Rios today; it never ceases to amaze me how much I learn in one class with her.

I've been lucky enough to find myself with teachers who give all their knowledge without holding anything back, who teach with love, and want to see their students grow to their fullest capacities.  I'm looking forward to seeing my teachers and mentors back in the states and I will miss the incredible teachers I've had here this year.

Eating cake and talking about flamenco one day after class :)

In general, I will miss being surrounded by flamenco and flamencos, there's really no substitute for that.  Although the music, videos, and books are all more accessible than they used to be thanks to Spotify and youtube, it's the conversations and experiences that really helped me grow.  For example, the quote at the beginning of this post is from a video Manuela let me borrow last week; she happened to have the video with her and thought I would like it; then we talked about it the next week once I'd watched it.  Often someone will mention a song so and so sings, and I go home, look it up, and study it.  It's going to be hard to keep studying the cante and history without the sort of informal discussions about flamenco that happen on a daily basis.  

Ironically, I am looking forward to being surrounded by other forms of art.  Museums, jazz music, blues, modern dance, performance art, theater, etc., abound like nowhere else in New York, and I plan on taking full advantage of that, budget permitting.

Greek and Roman Wing at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sounds of the streets

As I walked home last night, I had an urge to run my fingers along the walls of the buildings as I meandered through the labyrinth like streets of Sevilla, as if touching the city's walls would permanently instill my memories of these streets.  I realized as I walked towards the Setas that I've changed a lot over the year and I can never unlearn what this city has taught me, nor would I want to.

There's something really special about Sevilla's streets.  To begin with, they are absolutely gorgeous.  The buildings, the street lamps, the balconies with plants, the uneven cobblestones....

You never know what you're going to come across.  A couple of months ago I wandered in the Barrio Santa Cruz, the oldest neighborhood in Sevilla, the only neighborhood I can still get turned around and lost in, and I came across the ruins of Roman columns.  How could I have never wandered down that street before to see those?

Columnas on Calle Marmoles (photo:

Then the sounds.  Every morning I hear the guy with the bombonas (propane tanks) walk by, he sings bombooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooona.  At least once a day I hear flamenco in the streets--someone singing a letra, music from a car, palmas, the notes of a guitarist practicing with his window open.  Then there is the distinct sound of the persianas (parisian blinds) being opened or closed.  At night, you can hear the hum of the nearby alameda--a large plaza where many people go for a drink or tapa at night.
And then there is the sound of silence.  Especially now in the summer, and even more so on weekends when most people leave the city for the beach, Sevilla is like an abandoned ghost town.   It's so silent the sun's burning rays almost seem to murmur.  The silence makes you hyper aware of the few sounds there are.  If you read Spanish, here's a more poetic article describing Sevilla's streets in the summer:

That's celsius, not fahrenheit....

Also the smells.  You can always tell what people are cooking for lunch; nothing more distinct than puchero (traditional stew), or garlic cooking in olive oil....

Then there's the people on the street.  A stout old man with cigar in hand that brings a cart full of oranges from his orchard just outside Sevilla to a quiet corner in Triana, which happened to be right near the studio I rehearsed in--best oranges I've ever had in my life.  The immigrant that sells tissues on the street corner and smiles at everyone, and greets me every morning with "Hola guapa, tómate un cafe con leche conmigo," I just smile and say, "Hola."  The other day I ran into a friend on her way to a dinner on a rooftop; I had every intention of going home and getting some rest, but who could say no to offer to hang out with friends with a perfect view of the city, the Giralda, the setas...You never know who you're going to run into; the flamenco world is small and many flamencos come to Sevilla from time to time--I walked out of my house to run a quick errand only to see a colleague I hadn't seen in a couple years on my street.  The other day I ran in to a singer I hadn't worked with in four years--which of course meant catching up over an ice cold cruzcampo.

The magnificent Giralda; pictures just don't do it justice. 

As I spend my last week writing about what I will miss most here and what I am most looking forward to in the States, it's becoming much easier to think of things I will miss here than things I am looking forward to....But by far the people I can't wait to see are my family and friends.  A year is a long time to go without seeing immediate family.

Candid photo around the Blumenfeld dinner table...

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Simplicity of Spanish Cooking

Food starts with the freshest most flavorful ingredients at a neighborhood market.  I will miss buying my produce here:

Mercado on Calle Feria

I will miss the fact that I always go to the same produce stand and the fruit sellers are so friendly, and I will miss chatting with the old ladies while I wait my turn.  People are so easy-going and amiable here in Spain!

And I will miss the quality and prices of the produce.  I've eaten some of the freshest and most flavorful foods here in Spain.  There's a reason Spanish cooking is so simple--when you have such fresh ingredients--and AMAZING olive oil--you don't need anything more.  Fruits and vegetables are still seasonal here, which gives you a greater appreciation of each item, and means they are even more flavorful. It's all about the simplicity.

Just look at all the olive oil!  Good stuff!

My favorite dishes here are: tortillitas de bacalao (salt cod cakes), salmorejo, solomillo al whisky (pork in a garlic whisky sauce), tortilla, paella negra, boquerones (fried fresh anchovies), carrillada (pork cheek), coquinas (cockles), caracoles (snails)....nevermind, I love all the food here, no point in making a list!

Here's a recipe for salmorejo, which is like gazpacho, but way better.  It is a dish from Córdoba:

Put the following ingredients in a blender and blend until very creamy. The key to salmorejo is not under-blending and getting the right balance between bread and tomatoes.  It should be quite thick if you got the bread/tomato ratio right.

1 kilo of tomatoes chopped in big chunks
1 large bread bun (bollo) soaked in water (day old bread is best)
1/4 cup or so of good quality olive oil
1 garlic clove
a dash or so of sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar

My kitchen counter at lunchtime today :)
Chill and serve topped with bits of iberian ham, hard boiled egg, and a drizzle of olive oil.


I guess I will have to make up for the lack of amazing olive oil by putting excessive amounts of green chile on everything I eat :)  And my first stop will be a breakfast burrito here:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What 6 euros gets you in Sevilla....

.....A lot. 

6 Euros gets you into any one of the flamenco peñas. It also gets you a plate of paella big enough for two people at my favorite restaurant--La Bodega in Plaza Alfalfa .  Yum!   :)

I forgot to take a picture until it was all gone....

Earlier this week, 6 euros got me a ticket to see Rosario Toledo's newest work, 'Pintoresca,' and now a question of what is flamenco--can flamenco be deconstructed too far, so much that it is no longer flamenco?

The show is described as follows:
"'Pintoresca' de Rosario Toledo refleja no sólo el paralelismo temático con el movimiento pictórico iniciado por Picasso, Braque y Gris, también la búsqueda de nuevos modos expresivos en el flamenco, entre los que se asienta la deconstrucción posmoderna del acontecer artístico. En Pintoresca, la deconstrucción se enfoca hacia la transmutación de la guitarra flamenca, que toca Dani de Morón, y hacia la lectura del baile flamenco como arte total, despojado de la rigidez de pasos, palos y vestimentas al uso" (

My translation: (Rosario Toledo's Pintoresco reflects not only a parallel theme with pictorial movement initiated by Picasso, Braque and Gris, but also the search for new modes of expression in flamenco, in which postmodern deconstruction is set up by the artistic occurrence.  In Pintoresca, the deconstruction focuses towards the transmutation of the flamenco guitar, played by Dani de Morón and towards the reading of flamenco dance as a total art, stripped of the use of the rigidity of steps, rhythms and costumes. )

In many ways Toledo's style of dancing in general is similar to that of the cubist artists of the 20th century.  The lines she makes with her body are geometrical interpretations of more 'academic' flamenco lines and postures.  Toledo builds phrases in a sort of piecemeal manner, beginning with short phrases, then deconstructing them and adding in fillers to create longer phrases, or she mixes and matches phrases and using repetition creates whole choreographies.  In other words, she can take a short phrase and look at it from many angles to create a complete choreography--similar to the cubists that looked at an object from multiple angles.

I loved the concept of the show, and the final scene which brought together projections of the images, Toledo's dancing, and a representation of Picasso's cubist guitars was visually astounding.  However, the show never gave me moments to latch on to; the beginning with Toledo in a box dragged on for too long and was a bit to obvious as to its representation of breaking out of a box.  The dancing combined with the drawing of a cubist drawing on a large black panel lacked dynamic.  Toledo re-used tropes from previous works--for example that of 'discovering' her flamenco shoes. Maybe the problem is trying to represent a two dimensional object in time in space--is it possible?  Or to represent sound in a two dimensional object?  As for whether or not it is flamenco or just dance; Rosario is trained and labels herself as a flamenco dancer, but when you take away the traditional aesthetics, the traditional structure, and the cante, there's not a lot that makes it flamenco.  Which is not to devalue the show; as a work of dance it's superb.  Maybe if I had gone into it expecting dance and not flamenco, I wouldn't feel like it was missing something.  At the least it's given me lots to think about....And speaking of dance:

In the States: 6 euros, or the 8 or so dollar equivalent doesn't get you much in New York.  A bagel with lox, not bad I guess...For a little more, I can see some of the best dance companies in the world; I am so looking forward to New York's Fall for Dance Festival.  The tickets are a little more than 6 euros, but not much; $15.00 gets you a ticket to any of the shows.  Here's the link with more info:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Giant Mushrooms!

Say what?

I will miss giant oversized mushrooms in the middle of my city :P

With a great view of the surroundings.

The setas (mushrooms in Spanish), or as they are officially known, Metropol Parasol in the Plaza de la Encarnación, are a giant wooden structure (yes, wood!--I was shocked when I found this out) designed by a German architect, Jurgen Mayer-Hermann.  They are quite controversial because of the amount of money they cost to build, they are built on top of Roman ruins (which are accessible in a museum underneath the structure), and half-way through construction the architecture firm realized the structure was infeasible as designed and had to be re-designed, costing the city millions more euros.  In the end they totaled around 100 million euros to build. Ouch.
Here's the link to the wikipedia page with more info (and better photos than mine):

I was not a huge fan of them at first; when I was studying abroad they were still building them and the construction was quite noisy and could be heard throughout the city all day.  Someone made the point to me that with all the money they were spending they could plant giant trees and make a nice green space, which isn't a bad argument.  However, once completed, they started to grow on me--I like the contrast they create with the rest of Sevilla.  And as far as large works of art go, I think they're way cooler than the Eiffel Tower....

Stateside, I'm looking forward to seeing these little buggers:


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The countdown begins :(

I have ten days left in Sevilla.  I don't want to leave.  This is my dream; living here, dancing here.  But my dream is also to mount my own works, which is more feasible right now in the United States.  As important as studying and experimenting in the studio is, I need and want to put this year to use performing and lecturing in the U.S.

Going through some of the things I've acquired, mostly weeding out lots of things--unless anyone knows where you can buy a magical Mary Poppins bag--I found some notes I'd written my first few weeks here.  One of them read, "Sometimes it feels like right when things are clicking in one place, we have to move to a new place, but I guess if we didn't move we'd get stagnant."  A little piece of advice I left for myself in early September.

So as my time here winds down, I figured I would do several posts about what I am going to miss most--really it's the quotidian things, which I haven't posted too much on blog.  For the next 10 days I will post the little, normal things I will miss...along with something I am looking forward to in the States.

In Sevilla: On Thursdays there is a very large flea market on Calle Feria.  Lots of interesting items from flamenco dresses to antique silver to pirated dvds.  I enjoy looking at all the items--if I lived here permanently I'd give in to buying lots of porcelain and some of the artwork....

And back in the states: I can't wait to see these:

The Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque.