An Audience

An Audience

On Saturday we performed a 4 piece flamenco show in a small theatre in Kent, it was a tiny venue but with a lovely stage that had fantastic resonance, with each piece of taconeo (footwork) clear and crisp. The audience were so raw and appreciative, there was no quiet reverence, they cheered and whooped with every subida (speeding up footwork) and even gave us some Olé’s! They were very earthy and the more they gave to us, the more energy and emotion we had to give back. Maybe it was because there was no pomp or formality about the venue (we had to walk through the audience to reach the stage) and hopefully the way we all communicated through Flamenco that gave the night so much atmosphere but it was wonderful.

I know it’s hard for British audiences to know how to behave and react at a flamenco show, those who are used to theatre performances may be more accustomed to recitals and theatre where the correct form is to remain quiet until the end of each piece. However, if you are moved by flamenco: a gesture of the dancer, a falseta of the guitarist  or the emotive expression of the singer , then an Olé is never out of place, even with an English accent! I challenge you all to be brave, even if it’s quiet at first, we will feel what you are giving us back and our performance will be the richer for it. Of course, there is a proper form also for Flamenco audiences and the jaleo (encouragement) should never sound like a football chant but personally, I have never been offended by audiences  in the UK if I sense their appreciation is genuine and heartfelt, whether it’s with a cheer a whistle or an ‘excelente!’

Theatre or smaller venue

I’m often asked What’s better, as a flamenco dancer, to perform in a theatre or in a restaurant/smaller venue?

 It’s difficult to answer as, while the 2 types of venues are so different, they both have qualities that, as a performer fulfill different aspects of a flamenco experience.

 When I create a show for my flamenco company, I give a lot of thought to what I need to express in my dances and what will create a show that is well balanced, to give the audience a taste of what real flamenco is: ugly, brutal, fierce, graceful, powerful, tragic and joyful. It has light and shadow, bitter and sweet. Certainly, one can be taken very seriously performing in a theatre and in some ways, I can  take more risks. Atmosphere is also created by lighting, staging and a much larger company, at least 6 artists. But can I honestly say it’s better? I am trying to bring them closer to me and overcome the distance between the stage and the stalls and I’m happy to say most times I feel them enter my world and feel what I am feeling, but I can’t see their eyes.

 Last night I performed with my guitarist brother, José in a local restaurant and the atmosphere was electric. I could see the expression on every single person’s face, feel them with me as I fevershly danced, all the more passionately because of their connection to me. I could sense them sadden as I danced the lonely Soleá Por Bulerías with tears in my eyes, feeling their pain as well as my own. Later as I danced por Alegrías, their faces lit up with joy and I felt we had all gone through the journey of flamenco together, it’s darkness and it’s delight.

 I know I prefer to see flamenco up close. I recently saw one of my favourite dancers; Pastora Galván both in a tiny patio in Sevilla and then again in the Teatro Villamarta in Jerez. Both performances were magnificent, but very different. The patio performance was intimate and more traditional and yet magical for it’s authenticity and intimacy. I knew she could see and feel my enthusiasm. In Villamarta, a humourous and more daring performance with very different qualities.

 So, in all honesty, I love both, the artistic freedom that comes with a theatre production where I have budget and time to involve other great artists and create something I have dreamed of with lighting, staging to help me realise my vision. But there is something very unique about connecting so directly with an audience, in a small venue where they can see my eyes and I theirs and we create the ‘ambiente’ together.