I came to Spain to learn Spanish, eat Paella, see some Gaudi, and drink Sangria. I did not plan to see Flamenco. I thought is would be really cheesy. Women in frilly, red dresses dancing around and snapping to over-enthusiastic guitar strumming. Count me out. But Mike kept saying he needed to see some authentic flamenco, so we asked around and heard about a great underground flamenco club. There were plenty of signs all around Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada for the “authentic” flamenco experience- 40 Euros for dinner and dancing. For some reason I couldn’t imagine the original flamenco dancers performing in front of dining tourists.
The place we found was in Granada, on Carrera del Darro called Le Chien Andalou. It was only 6 euros, and it blew me away.
We walked in and it was a brightly lit, white-washed cave, about forty feet deep, ten feet wide. The stage was only about 8 by 10 feet. We were told to get there an hour early to get a seat. When I walked in, I was skeptical. It was almost empty. We sat next to a guy from Colorado, and I thought, oh great this is a tourist trap. By 10 o’clock the place was jam packed. All of a sudden the lights went down and a chubby, balding, blond haired guy walked on to the stage with his guitar. When he began strumming, the room fell silent. If you closed your eyes it sounded like two or three people were playing. When I opened my eyes I was captivated by the faces he made. He looked evil, almost possessed by his guitar. His name is Josele de la Rosa.
Next the singer and dancer joined the stage. The singer was a young, pretty blond. From what I read about Flamenco singing, the singer is supposed to be old, haggard, and lived through a lot. I didn’t think this young girl could cut it, but the second she opened her mouth I got goosebumps. Her voice was so rich, deep and raw. Most songs were just one line sang over and over again. It became hypnotic, but the subtle changes each time were heart-wrenching. After the second song I realized I was crying. I did not expect to be overwhelmed by singing in a dive bar. The singer’s name was Fita Heredia.
While Fita was singing, the dancer, Almudena Romero, was sitting in the corner in the standard, frilly, red dress. She seemed antsy, like she couldn’t hold back her dance moves, but she wanted to let the singer have the lime light. Then, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she stood up and if people weren’t crying at that point they didn’t stand a chance. She transfromed from a smiling, laughing young woman to a powerful, intense, fiery vixen. The look she gave the audience was something I had never seen before. Something like, “if you ever hurt me I will rip each one of your fingers off and feed them to you.”
I have never seen such raw emotion before in my life. With each movement of her pinky, with a flick of her hair, with a hip pop she was able to say a thousand words. At this point I was a mess. Not only was I crying but my nose was running uncontrollably. I wasn’t even sad, just so overcome with emotion. She was able to show such vulnerability in her face, yet her movements had the strength and bravado of a bullfighter. The dance got faster, and more erratic, and almost violent, until the stopped suddenly and the lights came on. I looked around and to my relief I wasn’t the only one reduced to tears. Nearly everyone was dabbing their eyes with napkins. Even the guy from Colorado. He said it was far better than Eric Clapton, a performer he’s followed his whole life. Mike was speechless. He’s a musician, and even he was blown away by the performance.
It was something so pure, so vulnerable, and so beautiful. If I lived in Spain I would become their groupie. They made me want to take flamenco classes. A strange desire for someone who can’t clap in rhythm.