‘El Rincón de Los Amargos’

I’ve been reading a brilliant book about our ‘shadow’ the dark part of ourselves that we put away and repress.  It’s a brilliant book and describes how we learn to shut off certain parts of ourselves that we feel are unacceptable.

 My favourite quote is from Carl Jung : ‘I’d rather be whole than good’. It sums up so much of what I feel about Flamenco in that we can express our ‘whole’ rather than just the  pretty, pleasant,  jolly side to ourselves and life.  Life is bitter sometimes, we feel defeated, alienated and alone, our own thoughts too, if we accept them openly, are not always happy or wholly ‘good’, but they are part of what makes us  whole.  I don’t need to shut down some aspect of my feelings or expression  in Flamenco, I can feel the ‘amargura’ (bitterness) and fear in a Tarantos,  identify with the hopelessness of the soleá grande and appreciate the inconsolable  grief of the Seguirilla.  By contrast but equally as valid is the need to express the joy and fullness of life. I can be coqueta and playful in a Guajiras, carefree and joyful in an Alegrías and sensual and provocative in a Tangos.

We re not one dimensional as human beings, we are multifaceted and complex. We can feel envy and anger, resentment and bitterness. We are also capable of  great  humour, happiness and deep love and all this and much more is Flamenco. It feels to me so honest and accepting of all that we are and feel that Flamenco, so powerful, majestic, humble  and honest  enables us to connect with all aspects of ourselves   if we are to be authentic in our expression of this complete art form.


¡Que rico, lo amargo!’

*El Rincón de Los Amargos’ Vicente Amigo y El Pele.




More than moves

Whenever I’m in Andalucía,  I’m surrounded by Flamenco, not just in the performances  and  music in bars but in the street, talking to my neighbours, walking to the supermarket. It’s not that everyone is dancing or singing flamenco, although one of the local buskers does a great Camarón: ‘Como El Agua’ It’s the manner of being, the humour, the style.
 I often feel I do my best choreography when I’m there because the smell of the jasmine and orange blossom, mixed in with the cachondeo (humour) and ‘piropos’ (flirtatious complements) brings out the best in me both as a human being and an artist.
Often when I return from practising in a local studio, I join  my neighbours Paqui and Chele  as they sit outside in the evening and talk. They are both mothers and Chele a grandmother, ordinary women who adore their children and honour their parents.  We  have very different lives but we connect with eachother in such an honest and real way. Paqui was saying she’s having trouble losing some excess weight as she’s  starting the menopause but that she still knows how to be ‘provocativa’ for her husband who she adores. She still feels attractive and sensual, feminine and  important, and it made me think how few women in the UK genuinely feel that way after they reach 50. I don’t pretend to speak for every women in the UK but I do know how so many women who come to me to learn flamenco feel invalid, unattractive and unimportant when they lose their youth. It’s is one of the issues I really try to address in my teaching as it is so much an integral part of flamenco, feeling sensual, expressing wisdom and experience and feeling power and strength in one’s body, no matter what age.
Another day, I was telling them how I’m working  on a ‘Caracoles’, a light  alegrias which I’m choreographing with a ‘abanico’ (fan). I borrowed one of the small fans they were using to keep themselves cool and starting to show them some ideas I had.  Afterwards, Chele felt in the mood to sing so she began  in her deep, raspy voice some fandangos. She sang quietly as we were still sitting in the street, but it was so beautiful, so pure, so earthy. It was so flamenco because it wasn’t contrived or artificial, she was with friends and she wanted to sing!
Maybe what I’m trying to communicate is that flamenco dance isn’t just a lot of steps danced in compás and the more steps you learn the better you are. I so want to convey to anyone who really wants to understand flamenco that it is so much more. It is feeling comfortable in your own skin, even if you feel really low and weak. It is allowing yourself  to  be who you are without apology, but also being sincere and genuine. It is expressing humour and sorrow, acnowledging their roles in our lives.