SOLEA POR BULERIAS

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Sara Baras, Flamenco Dancer

The Inner-Self Dance, with a Surprise Ending Contrast

It took me a long time to write about this Palo or flamenco dance style. I believe I wanted to study it more, feel it more, and listen to the experts on such a difficult subject. I say it is difficult because flamenco is not like all other dance forms. Flamenco comes from the heart, the inner feelings of a person, and it cannot be imitated. It is not free flowing like a  ballet dance, and it talks to each one of us to the point of falling apart in our seats crying or smiling with joy.  Solea por Bulerias  is soul-searching, making you feel strong and empowered; something that lures the spectator, because it gives a mysterious feeling that cannot be explained lightly.

This dance lets me say…“I am angry, I am pissed, but I am going to enjoy life, and, so what?”

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Eva Yerbabuena, Flamenco Dancer

 

When gurus talk about Yoga, they explain it as a time to enter into yourself, a time of reflection, relaxation, and soul-searching.

The term called “Solea” represents the time to enter into your own soul and be inside yourself with no interference. The dance is more constrained, you are in a control that in the dynamic of the dance, you can see the dancer keeping every movement to herself as if talking with her own soul. Contrary to the flamenco dance “Alegrias” or “Bulerias,” where we see the dancer being more outgoing, the dance is free of control and it is more free-flowing, less restrictive, in Solea, there is a strong conversation with the inner-self.

On Solea por Bulerias we see this at the start of the dance, and at the end, the dancer gives us a burst of surprise with fun, more active movements, as if saying, “see, I was sad, reflecting on my own loneliness, but here I am showing off that I don’t care, and life is beautiful.” It is as if saying: “I am happy with my loneliness.”

 

 

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The compás starts on 12, and is identical to that of the Alegrías. The pace is that of a slow to mid-tempo bulerías.

 

To learn the Compas of Solea por Bulerias Check this CD: 

http://amzn.to/2owJbzZ

The meaning of Solea por Bulerias is nothing more than a Solea with its own melody to the rhythm of a Buleria. It is not always understood until you learn to dance it, from there it goes to a feeling inside, a show off of your own pain and at the same time of happiness. To me, Solea por Bulerias has become one of my favorite flamenco styles. When I practice it, and dance to its rhythm, I want to cry and express so much, that if I would be alone, I would yell at the mirror. I have held too much anger inside, the anger that comes from years of discrimination, family issues, the sadness of losing our loved ones, and the incrementation of stress due to meaningless workloads, and the sometimes condescending attitude of superiors or friends. I let it all out in a Solea por Bulerias. This dance lets me say…“I am angry, I am pissed, I am sad, but I am going to enjoy life, and, so what?” Last week in class, with the same song that we practiced for the last three months, I started to get emotional and cry. I quickly fought back the tears to concentrate more and not let the rest of the students or my teacher notice. All I can say is that Solea por Bulerias gives me the chills and  I think one of the best aspects of Solea por Bulerias is that it lets you see who in the classroom has suffered the most by seeing how they project their pain or happiness on the dance floor. The fact that some students have to find that in their inner-self and let it out, is therapeutic, and even spellbinding to the viewer.

The historical contribution the Gypsies, the Moors and the Sephardic Jews left with Flamenco, was their cry and pain for years of discrimination, being treated as outcasts, and taken for granted. We can each day see a connection from the cante, the lyrics, and the emotional performance a flamenco dancer gives. If you visit any gypsy village in Spain, you would see the same.

I invite you to check out any of the many Solea por Bulerias videos, and if you like this form of flamenco, you can find them on the links I provide you with. Thanks again for reading. Please, comment about this beautiful flamenco dance.

Examples of Solea por Bulerias Are:

 

 

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Montse Cortez

 

 

 

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Marina Heredia

 

Singers: Marina Heredia, Gerardo Nunez, Montse Cortez, Manuel Reyes

 

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Paco de Lucia

 

Guitarrists: Paco de Lucia, Adolfo Marquez

Dancers: Eva Yerbabuena, “La Lupi” (Susana Lupiañez) Pastora Galvan, Belen Maya, Sara Baras


La Lupi dancing a Solea por Bulerias

Paco de Lucia in the guitar playing Solea por Bulerias

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First Day of Flamenco Class

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A Saturday morning was mostly spent at home sleeping late, getting up at around 10 am, and the usual cup of coffee in hand would wake me up to my senses. There were other worries, laundry had to be done, the car needed to be washed, and other mundane things kept me busy, but bored. I enter my first day of flamenco class on a Saturday morning, and since then, my days have been different.

I left Bucks County, the suburb I live in to drive to Bala Cynwyd, PA area to the home of Elba Hevia y Vaca, artistic director and founder of Pasion y Arte Flamenco Conservatory, where I would be learning to dance flamenco. Elba has a very disciplined structure, she maintains a humorous, dynamic and a positive point of view; something she disseminates through her classes. I need to share with people that have a great outlook in life like her, there are many things that affect the world lately, and we all need a little bit of inspiration to continue in our journey.

After entering the class, and seen people of different cultures, characters, different ages, and sizes, I realized the true flamenco. Flamenco is not a type of dance where you have to be slim and long like a ballerina, it helps to be in shape, but it accepts you as you are, and what is wonderful about this dance form, is that I have seen people that are professionals and good at this, who are not slim at all, that can show you a performance to die for.

We all assume flamenco is this romantic, sexy dance that has to be done by the attractive young woman, but I have seen women who are older, bigger in size, or men, who still make the dance sexier and romantic, by providing you with this sense of anything is possible, and in life, romance and sexiness knows no limits. Because in the dancer what transpires is passion, a passion that talks to you in their moves, making you want more.

*I will be writing more about this conservatory in the near future, and even include an interview with Elba Hevia y Vaca, so stay tuned.

If you would like to comment on my experience or want to sign up for the school, just send me a comment below, and I will be glad to help.

The Irony of Summer in Flamenco

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Summer

Aw summer. You have come and gone. I see you pick at me through the window of my office as if saying, “come outside, I have an adventure for you.” I answer “no, I have to go back to work.”

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That’s us rehearsing at the Pasion y Arte Flamenco Conservatory School with our director, Elba Hevia y Vaca

Our flamenco school had shows during the Spring and Summer months. We embraced our rehearsals, the stage fright we all have of “what if I mess up?” What if I trip and fall?” or worse, what if I forget what step is next?” That can happen in a world where we are learning each day from an artistic mind like that of my teachers’. She is always inventing, and changing steps on choreography weekly. Sometimes it gets confusing, but it is all good as she says, “you’ll do fine guapa, just stay in compas.”

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Aw compas. It always surprises me the sensation of its drumming feeling, the biggest threat to any flamenco dancer is to be out of compas. The magnitude comes from deep within our soul, and we have to feel the compas and never erase it from our minds. Like the seasons-spring, summer, fall and winter, it comes and goes. So it is with compas, its rhythm varies from palo to palo, and you better learn them all or you’ll make a full of yourself dancing. It will be no surprise to find the dancers with their own metronome to find the correct compas as they practice. Today, even on my mobile phone I have my own metronome app to help me in those days of practice at home. You can compare them as learning to ride a bike, everything requires time and practice. Eventually you will hear a compas of a song and will be able to say which form of flamenco it is. For me it is so rewarding to know which one is an Alegrias, a Solea, or a Buleria. I am excited for our fall program. We will learn this time Siguiriyas. In this palo, you will get to the darkest part of your soul. A time of healing can come with this form of flamenco. Siguiriyas derived from flamenco’s earliest root forms, the tonás, Siguiriyas is one of flamenco’s oldest and deepest forms. Its name is a corruption of the term seguidillas, a group of 18th Century songs and dances. Siguiriyas first emerged in the 18th Century in Cádiz, Sevilla and Jerez de la Frontera. Slow, majestic and tragic, Siguiriyas is the most jondo of cante jondo forms. Its lyrics focus on tragedy, inconsolable sorrow, and pain. (I found out recently, this is my teachers’ favorite palo she explains it is like the equivalent of deeper sadness, like cutting vains of flamenco, for its dark, and powerfully tragic lyrics. In this I see her sharing her soul in performance).

The summer months brings us to an understanding that even if we are bored at work with our daily routines and we wish for those moments of carefree enjoyment, we should never forget that as flamenco, we will be back on the floor to practice by the fall, and the time to play games and enjoy the sun will be gone with the first feelings of the morning cold by October, which will make us regret not to enjoy those summer months.

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Spring beauty

I must leave you all with this note: enjoy those days of summer, go outside at least for five minutes to embrace the heat and the chirping of birds. Dance as if you were a flamenco dancer, full of passion, love and happiness. Find your nearest flamenco show, it could be in a restaurant, and clap while you listen to the compas. Try to find the compas yourself, maybe you’ll find out the “Duende” in you. Life is too short, and soon you will be back to the rhythm of work responsibilities and cold environment that life brings to us all.

Duende-by-Renata-Domagalska

I would like to hear if you have found your Duende, and if you have visited a flamenco show lately. It would be wonderful to exchange experiences through this blog.

For more information on the different types of compas, visit http://www.compas-flamenco.com/es/palos.html

What I Have Learned From Flamenco So Far

 

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About the Author: Carolyn Pachas is a Communications and Social Media Specialist, Blogger and English Instructor in Pennsylvania. She also takes flamenco dance classes at the Pasion y Arte Flamenco Conservatory in Philadelphia, PA.

 

Flamenco is like life itself

 

Life is a long journey.  The process itself is dangerous, exhausting, and full of happy moments, of sadness, full of rage, anger, and disappointments.

Sometimes I believed in a supreme being, and like all of us, lost the faith, and gained it back again. I lost faith in humanity and in myself. Then through life experience, lots of reading, patience and observing people around me, I gained it back again.

Flamenco is like life; it is divided into many aspects and goes in so many directions. It allows you to feel it, interpret it, and show your feelings to the outer world. What comes out of your heart, can be seen in any dance interpretation, but flamenco touches you to the core.

I cannot say that I have had a wonderful time with my flamenco journey. It is different for everybody, and my experience had its dark moments. It could be related to the lack of time to practice, the long one hour drive twice a week to class, having only one flamenco school in the area, or work schedules that get in the way. One thing is for sure, I never gave up despite the circumstances, and my journey has been a positive one in so many other aspects, which is why I wanted to share it.

My positive experience in Flamenco

1. I have met many people in my flamenco journey

The class is diverse, people of different ages and countries come in, new students come and go, and the class is always evolving. One thing I have noticed of our class is that every time there is a performance, people from the audience become intrigued, want to learn more about flamenco, and after a few lessons, they drop the class, others stay if they are passionate about flamenco, or have studied about it before.  The best part is that you make new friends. You get to have a new family, and the bond is authentic and full of love.

2. I learned to understand my body better

Even if you are an exercise or gym buff, ballerina or jazz dancer, flamenco adds another element to your mental understanding of what your body can and cannot do. First of all, I don’t have to emphasize how dance can improve brain function, I leave that to the experts like Christopher Bergland, who is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and public health advocate. In an article written by Christopher for Psychology Today, he emphasizes on recent studies that show how different types of practice allow dancers to achieve peak performance by blending cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory and ‘proprioception’ held in the cerebellum.

I can say that I used to have problems with keeping my balance and getting dizzy. Flamenco has helped me in keeping my balance, and now I don’t get dizzy with just a jolt of movement. Not to mention, my calves are strong like an athlete, and my ability to move out of the way in case of an emergency is off the charts. My agility is better, I can dance for longer periods of time, when I get out of class I am full of energy for the rest of the day,  and my Ulcerative Colitis has hardly any effect on my daily life.

Another component for your body is the fluidity and the fast increase of improvement in improvisational movement. Once you learn the steps and the rhythm, your movements become less mechanical.

3. You believe in yourself

 

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Our performance with Pasion Y Arte Flamenco, Philadelphia.

 

 

I have never been afraid to be on stage. In fact, I love the moments when I am on stage and show what I have learned. I remember as a little girl, and even as a teenager, I always participated in school functions. So I never suffer from stage fright. As an adult now I have also seen in class women who were shy, or afraid, that after months of practice change into this outspoken, not shy person.

I have seen how flamenco can transform people and give them a sense of accomplishment. Seeing women who were shy, grow into this powerhouse in front of an audience, is inspiring and contagious. Flamenco brings out the best in us, our ability to communicate with the world and speak a language that the heart of the audience can understand.

4. You are sharing with others an art form that is not understood

I am very surprised when people in the United States do not know how to pronounce flamenco. “It is not Flamingo, it is Flamenco.” Flamingo is a pink bird, Flamenco is a Spanish dance. Not only that, they sometimes believe Flamenco is from Mexico, due to the Spanish influence in Mexico and the Southern states like Texas, California, and Arizona. We share our shows and presentations in different formats, social media, blogs, and videos, anything that can spread the word. Flamenco has a deep, beautiful history that should be explained, to eradicate the lack of cultural misunderstandings, racism, and discrimination.

Therefore, we believe that it is important to let our friends and family members know what it is. The best part of understanding this dance format is so the people around us, including our families, learn a new dance. Being raised in Puerto Rico, I got really tired of Salsa and Merengue dances. I am not saying I don’t like Salsa and Merengue, it is just that it became a boring form of dance. Flamenco brought so much to me that now I feel special, no one in my family knows this dance form. Anyone can dance a Salsa or a Merengue, for they are not hard to learn, but not everyone can dance Flamenco, that is a whole different format that only the brave can master.

5. Doing what you love is awesome

 

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Students of Pasion y Arte Flamenco practicing and performing on the Students Showcase, 2018.

Doing what you love is magical, inexplicable, and talking about it shows how much you enjoy it. I admire people like my flamenco teacher, who work at something they love. They enjoy every moment of it, and they love sharing their knowledge with others. Their spirit comes out through their words, their patience, and their emphasis. I wish I learned Flamenco before, I think I would have dedicated myself also to teach this beautiful art. I believe there are other things we can do in life, and doing what you love is the best part of it. I can say I love Flamenco and enjoy sharing it with others.

I share my story here to inspire you to do what you love, and share with others your craft. There is nothing more beautiful than sharing your knowledge and inspire others to do the same for the better good of humanity.

Now that you have seen how Flamenco has impacted my life so far, this is an opportunity for you to go out there and follow your dreams. If you would like more information on Flamenco schools in your area or more information on this wonderful dance form, send me an email to cpachas100@gmail.com

 

Bergland, Christopher (2018). Why Is Dancing So Good For Your Brain. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/why-is-dancing-so-good-your-brain

 

 

The Sexualization of Flamenco

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Flamenco has given me an influence and dedication, it gave me a satisfaction that I have never felt before. At the same time, an understanding to the concept of dancing without boundaries. When I mean boundaries, I want to say that there is no preference in terms of male or female. Flamenco was sexualized in the Franco era back in the 50’s.

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Francisco Franco, Spanish dictator from 1939 until his death in 1975.

 

The woman dancer with a tight dress, and high bundled up hair with a flower on the side, the exaggerated jewelry and makeup, the red polka dot dresses, and the constant poses in photographs, made a constant point of what was considered flamenco, the symbol of Spain or of the hispanic woman. The abuse of this image, has kept flamenco misunderstood for years.vestido-deseo-airesdeferia-moda-flamenca-rojo-lunares-blancos-señora-800x800

When we look at the origins of flamenco, and what is supposed to be the real flamenco woman, we see two different versions:

The one with the tight polka dress, and the other, a gypsy, man or woman with regular clothes, the women with long big skirts, and men wearing regular day to day clothing. To each of my readers I would ask this, Which one do you think is the best representation of flamenco?  I am pretty sure most will answer the one with the polka dress. The reality is that the gypsy woman under this paragraph can also be a good flamenco dancer, and by all means they might be more authentic and pure because they feel it inside, they were born with it, but you will hardly see them on a stage. As a side note, I am not saying that the one with the polka dress is not a good dancer, she might be, but the reality is that what we consider flamenco, has been given to us in a different, more suttle way in order to sell tourism to Spain, at a time when Spain was seen as a haven to communism under the Franco administration. No one in the democratic world wanted to visit a communistic country like Spain, but many wanted to see a flamenco show.

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Gypsies in their normal attire, dancing flamenco

Ironically, gypsy communities were expelled and thrown out of their houses and neighborhoods all over Andalusia. They were marginalized, their music was censored in terms of not allowing them to sing or dance in public places, and their culture stolen as a Spanish marketing campaign for tourism. To this day, gypsies are one of the poorest and marginalized communities in Spain.

Flamenco from a gypsy perspective is an art form where culture, pain and suffering, happiness or celebration are expressed. The term called “duende,” has all of these elements. The flamenco dancer who is of gypsy descent, can sometimes be seen as crying emotionally while dancing. The singer can explode in a great cry on the song, and the beats are intensified. Sometimes a flamenco student can feel this in a split of a second, when the song is understood, the rhythm is felt in the heart, and a certain urge to dance without warning provides a sense of relief to the soul.

Flamenco is a soul type of dance, some say tribal, some say a demonstration of love. I invite you to have that feeling, sign up for a flamenco class, and enjoy the discovery of “duende” in you.

For more of an understanding on the repression and discrimination on the gypsy community, I suggest you read the article written by Jossy Bartal called Flamenco’s Repression and Resistance in Southern Spain, it can give a brief understanding of what is going on today to the gypsy community, and the history on their persecution in Spain.

The next time you see a flamenco show, think of this and try to find the differences and where flamenco was sexualized in order to sell plane tickets. If you have any comments or have any questions, please write me on the bottom of this blog, thanks.

A video showing the history of the persecution of the gypsies in the Triana area of Seville in Francisco Franco’s era. (watch with subtitles)

 

 

 

 

After a Short Vacation… I need flamenco!

Hello everyone,

Just two weeks of rest have passed and I feel the need to start stumping the floors again. Flamenco is a drug that after three years it keeps me going. Not to put any other form of dance or exercise down, I love Yoga and long walks in my neighborhood, but flamenco has those things that make the goosebumps show up on my skin. There is no denying that the vacation although local, had to include some Spanish flair.

So where did I go?

Tapas on Main in Bethlehem, PA

 

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Tapas on Main Restaurant

They have the best tapas in Northampton County, and the best service. we had Chorizo, Jamon Serrano (Spanish ham), Manchego cheese, Lamb meatballs, Blue Crab croquettes, black and green olives, baby back ribs, Salmon with potatoes, Spinach dip with Pita slices, and the best Sangria you can imagine. We picked first the Blood Orange Berry, and then the Limoncello Raspberry Cava, which made us realize the best times we can have is with family around a tapas table. By the way, the Tapas on Main in Bethlehem has 9 types of Sangrias to taste.  To end the night we had Churros with chocolate and cream as dessert.

 

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Churros as dessert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the rest of the vacation was nice days at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, a day sightseeing in the city of Philadelphia, where we learned history and art, some days at the shore and in the local park with our dog, Munchie. The best part was I had time to relax, unwine with my family and pet, and decided to give a good rest to my eyes before the start of a new journey in my career.

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Main Fountain
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Gazebo of lovers
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Flower in full bloom
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Flower garden
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Italian Fountain
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Munchie watching the ducks
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Family and pet at the Peace Valley Park, Doylestown, PA

It was a great vacation, I needed it, but now it is time to go back to work and enjoy what life has to give us. Flamenco and more work! Let me know what has been your favorite vacation lately in the comment box below.

 

The Latest in Apps for Flamenco Travel

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Nowadays there is an app (application) for anything. If you want to know what is the weather like, there are tons of apps that will give you the current weather with the push of a button or a swipe on your mobile phone. If you want to purchase tickets to the movie theater, there will be mobile apps providing you with movie titles, hours, or even popcorn and drinks. There are discount apps like Groupon, and the apps dedicated to rent a house or a swap of an apartment through Airbnb and Love Home Swap. My favorite apps are the ones for travel, to find restaurants, or cooking recipes.

What is an app?

Anita Campbell recently wrote an article for smallbiztrends.com in which she explains an app as a software used on a smartphone or mobile device such as the Android, iPhone, BlackBerry or iPad, as in “mobile app” or “iPhone app.” This application is software that you access and use while online, via a browser, instead of software residing on your computer (such as Microsoft Word). The uses are specific to just one to a few things. I”ll give you an example. one app can be used to find an item in a supermarket, while another app can be used to get discounts or coupons for certain products in another supermarket.

So how about flamenco?

Are there any apps I can use? Well of course, there are, and I am glad to share them with you.

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There are apps dedicated to teaching and practicing the “palmas” or rhythms for each flamenco style. As we learned in one of my preview blogs, flamenco has many different styles of flamenco, and each has its rhythm. Another type of app that is helpful for flamenco are musical apps. There are the ones dedicated to Sevillanas, or other types of flamenco dance, and even flamenco radio. Then, there are the learning flamenco or Spanish Guitar, then the travel helpful apps. These will help you find the latest show or town that has a festival or an activity dedicated to flamenco in Spain. Lets see some of the apps:

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An app dedicated to learning Palmas or a metronome

Learning Apps

  1. Learning to do “Palmas” or rhythms with your hands. There is an app called Flamenco Palmas which can be downloaded through Google Play for Android which can help people learn about the different rhythms or palmas in flamenco. It includes 9 patterns of palmas for bulerías, 3 for alegrías, 5 for soleares, 2 for jaleos, 3 for tangos, 2 for rumbas, 6 for fandangos, 3 for tanguillos, tientos and seguiriyas. You can build each palma and customize them at the style of your choice. This app costs $4.99.
  2. Another app similar to the one above is called Compas Flamenco, and you can get it through itunes. It features Rhythms for Soleares, Alegrias, Bulerias, Siguiriyas, Fandangos, rhythms of 4 beats (Tangos, Tientos, Tarrantos, Rumbas), rhythms of 3 beats (Granaina, Malagueña, Sevillanas) are included. The price for Compas Flamenco app is $9.99.7
  3. Flamenco Guitar Lessons teaches you with a simple method to play Flamenco sounding lines almost instantly. It claims to take just a few minutes to learn the method. This app is downloadable for free.
  4. Flamenco radio says “listen to the best stations of Flamenco music, enjoying her great emotional intensity, fierce stomping, deep groans and strumming guitar.” This app is free.
  5. Flamenco pro is my favorite app because it can be used not only for the professional dancers and singers of flamenco to find work, but also for people to find them in order to contract them for a show or a private gathering. This app also allows users to keep contact with professional flamenco dancers and singers or guitarists. It is excellent for the traveler to find out where is going to be the next flamenco gig of a particular singer or dancer, and to visit different travel locations. It includes links to airline tickets, hotel accommodations, restaurants, flamenco courses, and flamenco shows. Additionally, it incorporates the easy to use map with the address to these locations. As an enthusiast traveler, I cannot leave home without my Flamenco pro. Best of all, is a free app, who can beat that? Personally I see it as many apps in one. To see its many capabilities and artist collaborators, visit their website at: http://www.flamencopro.com/

Learning Spanish Apps

Duolingo: Learn Languages Free is considered right now the best language learning app according to the Huffinton Post in their article written by Michael Alan Connelly and is considered a user-friendly, free application that teaches users languages through drills, requiring a mix of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Learn Spanish is a simple, free app that can teach you the Spanish spoken in Spain or the Spanish spoken in Mexico. Yes, there is a difference, and you will find out once you travel to those countries or meet people from those countries in your life experience. I recommend you learn the difference.

Travel Apps

  1. travel-search-suitcasebeach-ss-1920The one for travel through Spain in general, is Spain Travel Guide. It provides each city on the destinations section, the quick map reader, and suggestions for each location. Downloadable free through Google Play.
  2. Spain Travel Guide Offline provides a readable guide that offers detailed articles around the country in relation to your current location. The use offline save money on roaming fees and can refer to the articles even if you are offline and cellular data is not available. This app gives the traveler to read on articles while planning the trip or for when you are on the plane and need to get a quick idea. This app is free.

There you have it, a quick list for the convenience of finding a good app on your flamenco/Spain adventure. I am giving you a small list, there are plenty more to see, specially the list of artists, music, books and even movies dedicated to this genre. There are apps for everything today. Do you have a favorite app that has helped you in your travels or finding music? Please, share with us, we are happy to try them and talk about them too.

Now, start downloading with care, and start exploring.

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Podcast-Alejandro Granados Interview English Transcript

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The Interview Podcast of Alejandro Granados-famous flamenco dancer

In our interview, we will cover the perspective of a flamenco dancer, and how this art form has transformed his personal life. Additionally, we will ask his advice  for the flamenco beginner.

Hello everyone, today we are sharing a great interview we did to a great flamenco artist, Alejandro Granados. As part of our podcast series in Spain, I wanted to share a pleasant experience that I had. In April, 2017 I met Alejandro Granados at the Pasion y Arte Flamenco Studio in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. The studio is directed by Elba Hevia y Vaca. He shared with us not only his tips on buleria flamenco, but his devotion to this artform, and how it has helped him throughout his lifetime. Alejandro only speaks Spanish, therefore, we are including the transcript with the video link:

Podcast-Alejandro Granados Interview

From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnwFF5FaKOs

English Transcript:

Hello, and welcome to our podcast. I am Carolyn Pachas. As part of our series of Spain, I wanted to share a pleasant experience that I had. In April, I met a great artist and master of flamenco dance, Alejandro Granados. Born in Madrid in 1961, with an extensive and solid professional dance career. When we spoke, he shared some of his contributions:

  • Participation in the National Ballet of Spain.
  • Guest artist and choreographer of the Andalusian Ballet.
  • With his company he premiered the Festival de Jerez with the show Sabor Anejo.
  • As a theater interpreter  with the Spanish Ballet of Madrid he did Yerma y Amargo.
  • In the Maestranza of Seville he did Medea
  • He was in Fedra
  • He was in Troy- 21st century, at the Real Teatro Clásico of Mérida.

Today he tours with his company all over the world contributing his knowledge of flamenco and sharing with his colleagues.

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Let’s hear the interview:

English Translation of Alejandro Granados Interview

Carolyn: Alejandro, thank you for accepting this interview for our podcast.

The first question is, with all your trajectory in different forms of dance, you have dedicated yourself to flamenco, how has your life changed with flamenco?

Alejandro: “Well, I have to say that I have changed and I have chosen flamenco as a form of expression because I was going with my way of being. Then, as I have been in my present state of my life, of my evolution as a person, flamenco has given me the power to walk together hand in hand. ”

Carolyn: What has been your most enjoyable experience teaching flamenco?

“Well, I am always very grateful because when you see that the students are enjoying themselves, and especially when they learn something new, it is a satisfaction because within everything there is a responsibility for the teacher to always give the correct information to the students.

Carolyn: What advice do you give to a flamenco beginner?

Alejandro: “To dedicate themselves better to football, it makes more money” says Alejandro laughing and talking to his collaborator Elba Hevia y Vaca, who sweeps the floors on one side of the studio. She agrees laughing back. He continues:

“Well, like any vocational profession, or any expression, you have to enjoy it, but you also have to work hard. So I want to say that no matter how talented I am, things do not happen if I don’t work hard, So have a good time but also work hard.”

Carolyn: Well, thank you for participating in our podcast, I wish you good luck.

Alejandro: “of course, of course.”

Carolyn: And welcome to Pennsylvania again and we hope to see you back soon.

Alejandro: “I hope, yes, and in Puerto Rico too.”

Carolyn: and in Puerto Rico, thank you so much.

That was Alejandro Granados, in an interview for our podcast back on April 28, 2017 from the Pasion y Arte Flamenco Conservatory located in Philadelphia. You can read the English version of this interview on our blog:  https://flamencodancesite.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/podcast-alejandro-granados-interview-transcript/

Thank you for listening.

Biography courtesy of: Alejandro Granados

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Spanish version of podcast:

Never Give Up

never-give-upMy flamenco process has been challenging. After two and a half years on the basic level, I finally made it to the Intermediate-Advanced level. It wasn’t easy, but I took my time, and certain health issues prevented me from being at the Intermediate level before. I had to miss practice and by the time I came back two months later, I was back to zero again, so the teacher told me “poco a poco” (little by little) and not to worry that eventually, I would catch on, and I did. I must admit my patience was limited and this situation thought me to not be desperate, good things do take time. So as part of the Intermediate level, I was able to participate in one show with the school and it was a lovely experience.

My condition is Ulcerative Colitis, and when it was diagnosed, I was in bed, unable to get up due to inflammation on all of my joints. I was so mad because in the flamenco class we were practicing a routine that was going to be used in a presentation at my teacher’s house, where we were all going to participate. I missed the rest of the classes, couldn’t be on the show, and although I was able to see it afterwards, felt dissapointed that I couldn’t be a part of it. Ulcerative Colitis is an immune disease, and I must be careful of what I eat so that I don’t get another flare. Flares are start-ups of the symptoms. I get the runs to the bathroom, pain in my muscles and joints, and sometimes even fever. It sends you to the bed, unable to move, if you do, it is painful. So I am taking medications of course, for the Ulcerative Colitis I take Lialda, and sometimes it is too strong so the doctor prescribed Uceris; both are steroids. For the pain in my joints, my regular doctor prescribed me Prednisone, which I was told is not a good medication, and I try to avoid getting flares so that I don’t have to use it. I have to be careful of any antibiotics I take because it can bring up the flares too. I must stay away from eating dairy because I discovered that is the reason I get flares.  So that is my biggest enemy so far, this disease that has no cure and can convert into Crohn’s Disease. Although I am scared of this situation, I must never give up flamenco or my daily routine. I love being with friends and family and enjoying my flamenco classes, and I cannot give up on any of it. Besides, my goal is to someday visit Spain and dance at least a Sevillana or a Bulerias with friends.

Tools to Practice Flamenco

I wanted to share certain tools of the trade that every flamenco student should have. Some are completely necessary and will be listed first on the list, and others can be added on with time according to your practice needs and your continuation of your flamenco studies.

The first thing must be shoes; the experts say that if you plan to dedicate yourself to flamenco, then purchase the most durable and best shoes you can find. If you are doing it just for a small length of time, then purchase something simple and less expensive, but comfortable. Some flamenco shoe stores sell them in categories: amateur, semi-professional, professional, and elite

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  1. Flamenco shoes

The shoes must be of good quality, well made, and fit perfect for your feet to feel comfortable, and not be damaged. In flamenco, there will be an increase on your stumping the floor strength, and your shoes must last and endure without damaging your feet. I will add a couple of websites of stores that sell good quality shoes, but it is at your discretion to decide which to pick and which will be good for you. The ones I will include on this have been recommended by teachers and students alike, and the first one website Senovilla, are the ones I use. The first link is directly from the Senovilla makers in Spain and might take longer for you to get them, the second link is from flamencowest, that sell Senovilla shoes and you can have them sent to you faster because their store is in California. If they don’t have your size, they can order them for you from Spain. Menkes is a store in New York city that sells flamenco shoes, skirts, and accessories. They do have a website which I am including here, and some people don’t like their shoes for they say are too hard for dancing. Shoes must be flexible on the top to help you on your steps. Therefore, Senovilla is preferred and other brands. Again, I am only going for what professional dancers say. Flamencista sells shoes, skirts, dresses, and accessories. Flamenco Export sells shoes, dresses, accessories, castanets, wedding gowns, souvenirs, and music. Another cheap and good option is Amazon, our last one on the list, where you can find many options and accessories.

https://amzn.to/2PmpFoi

2. Clothing:

Clothing must be comfortable, it could be the same type of clothes you use to the gym or yoga class. If you would like to include skirts, some of the stores I mentioned before, like Menkes, Flamencista and Flamenco Export can help. If you can find a nice skirt in the mall then make the purchase and enjoy. As a beginner, the skirt will not be used for a while, feel free to ask your teacher if a skirt is necessary for your beginner’s course. Don’t worry about the dresses yet, your teacher will let you know when to purchase, and can even give you advice on where or from whom to buy from. If you live close to New York City, Los Angeles, California, Texas area, you might find a store that sells beautiful flamenco dresses, or dressmakers. In some cases, some teachers can provide skirts or dresses for shows. Accessories for the hair like flowers, combs, hairdos, makeup, will be left up to the instructions of your teacher. Some teachers want elaborate customs and hair with accessories, others might ask for a simpler look. It is always great to ask first way before the presentations to know what you need to purchase.

3. Folding portable floor

This is a portable floor made of wood that you can fold and take with you places where you need to practice. Some professional dancers have one, and they are seen in Spain in some streets where flamenco dancers are performing to the public on top of these portable floors. I am providing here a link to a store that makes and sells them.

http://www.tarimasdedanza.com/www.tarimasdedanza.com/Training_Wood_2.html

To see an example of its use, I am including a video where famous flamenco dancer Alejandro Granados, is doing a demonstration on the use of the folding portable floor.

 

4. Castanets, fans, and long train skirts

Depending on the school you are in, and the expertise of your teacher you will have to eventually learn how to use castanets, fans, bata de cola (long train skirt showed below). Not all schools require you to learn how to use these things. Before signing up to any flamenco school, it is better to ask questions on what is taught there. If the school has a website, read the information and confirm with the teacher beforehand or on the day of signing. Some things might have changed and websites sometimes can have old information. Also, schedules of classes can change, so it is better to call ahead. If you would like more information on these and other tools, please leave me a comment below. Also, if an expert wants to comment on any other store or website they recommend, please do so in the comments below, thank you!

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Bata de Cola (long train skirt)
Spanish-Flamenco-Dance-Fan-Red-Wood-Polka-Dot_700_600_2OFNZ
Fans
castanets
Castanets

The Explanation of Duende in Flamenco

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Me in search of my Duende, down a cobbled road in Spain.

In my travels around Spain, I have heard about Duende. For me Duende means an elf. Understanding how folklore and ancient superstition is prevalent in Spain and elsewhere, it didn’t surprise me such a notion of the belief that everyone should be careful with a Duende or an elf. Suddenly, I started to listen some flamenco dancers and even singers in tapas bars express some comments about “she has el Duende” or, “he surely has Duende”, and as time passed, I became intrigued and needed to ask the bartender: “So, what is this thing about Duende?” To which he answered: “just watch the show and you will see it.” So here I was, intently watching this flamenco show, trying to see if any elf would jump into the scene and scare everybody or start dancing too.

No elf jumped into the scenario

As time passed and I continued watching the flamenco show I saw emotion on the singer; the dancer exhibited moments of sadness or ecstasy in her moves. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I realized there was no elf around to scare us.

Years later, during a study on flamenco I found out the ecstasy and the emotion was all Duende. This feeling and awe is felt by all of us. If you have written your own diary and read it with emotion and tears, that is your Duende coming out from your soul.  If you sing a song with passion, laughter and free happiness, that is your Duende. If you have screamed to someone in a heated discussion with all your might, and nothing could stop you from giving it your all and it felt good, that was your Duende coming out from your core.

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Duende is explained by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as traditionally used in flamenco music or other art forms to refer to the mystical or powerful force given off by a performer to draw in the audience. With this explanation I add that it is not always done to draw in the audience, sometimes Duende comes out spontaneously, with sincerity.

Federico Garcia Lorca, the Spanish literature writer described the Duende in his Theory and Play of the Duende as saying that “the great artists of Southern Spain, Gypsy or flamenco, singers dancers, musicians, know that emotion is impossible without the arrival of the Duende.”

With Garcia Lorca’s point of view, I do agree emotion is part of what is Duende, without emotion, flamenco would be without soul. He said it is a “mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained”. The next time you see a flamenco show, try and see if you feel the Duende when you hear the music or the singer. That would be a good exercise to understand the concept of Duende in flamenco.

I invite you also to my next blog on the origins of flamenco and Andalucian brief history: https://wordpress.com/stats/day/flamencodancesite.wordpress.com

Here is a video that shows Duende.