As soon as my daughter and I booked our trip to Spain, I knew I wanted to see a flamenco dance. Our itinerary looked pretty booked, but we did still have a free evening the first night of our arrival in Madrid.
“Don’t see flamenco in Madrid,” a friend told me. “See it in Seville where it originated.”
But I had a free night, you see, and I found a place to watch flamenco in Madrid: Las Tablas Flamenco.
We were seated at the table closest to the small stage — which I always love. I like to see performers sweat. I like to see their muscle control and the expressions on their faces that I’d never be privy to at a table toward the back. I also saw the floorboards bounce and reverberate with the pounding of the dancers’ feet.
First, we listened to the lone guitarist flex his acoustic muscles. Then a singer joined in, wailing with soul as the guitarist strummed. Then a man came out and stood there, eyes closed, swaying slightly as he felt the music move through him, poised for movement, but waiting.
Slowly, he began smacking the floor with his feet, raising his arms above him as he stomped with staccato passion. The music built to a frenzy and the dancer matched the fiery tension of the guitar with his feet. I felt like I was witnessing a battle; a duel of man vs. self as he seemed to banish the spirit that possessed him as his stomping heels hammered the stage.
I loved it.
A woman followed the man for the next dance and fought her own inner fire as she pounded the stage. She wore a traditional polka-dotted dress and a stern expression. She danced as though her life depended on it. If it did, she finished her dance victorious.
The dances at this small dinner theater thrilled me. They were full of heat and passion. I felt like I’d seen authentic flamenco. But, once we arrived in Seville, we took part in a group dinner at a flamenco theater and I saw a completely different type of flamenco.
Our host explained that at small flamenco venues, we were watching amateurs who improvised and practiced their techniques in their shows. At this large dinner theater, we’d see professional flamenco dancers who performed the same choreographed dances at every performance. It wouldn’t vary; they were performing as professionals.
It was beautiful. And passionate. The troupe displayed several different types of flamenco dance.
I loved it. But I think I liked the small, intimate expression of dance at Las Tablas Madrid better. It felt like the dancers were fully present, feeling the music and moving their bodies and feet with determined intensity. Like the fierceness of the bulls that I associate with Spain, the striking precision of the rapid-fire stomping embodied the spirit of Spain. The dancers seemed like they were fighting a battle of honor and valor. I know one thing: if it was a battle to win me over, they slayed it.
Have you watched flamenco dancing, or another type of regional dance that you love?