The weather continues to be good and we continue to be out and about all day. But the days need to be longer than 24 hours because we seem to be busy all the time.
Today we got what for us is an early start: we were out of the apartment around 9:00. We had a meeting at 10:00 and you might think that an hour is plenty of time to eat breakfast and walk a short distance to a meeting. But it doesn’t seem to work that way for us.
When we go to a restaurant for breakfast, it seems to take us a long time to get served. The food comes quickly, but then it is often difficult to get la cuenta (the bill). I think part of the reason is that we ask for a menu rather than telling the waiter what we want as soon as someone stops at the table. It could also be that they can quickly tell that we aren’t locals that we just don’t get the same service.
Our meeting at 10 was with Amarita, our guide from Wednesday. She had agreed to help Patricia find a flamenco dress for Claire, our granddaughter. Claire is small, so we knew it might be a challenge. Amarita was happy to help us and she helped us get the staff at the store to be part of the process as well. There was lots of discussion about style, color, size, and even how easy it would be to modify the dress. My Spanish would never meet the challenge. At last the exactly right dress was selected and it was time to pay. Here was the real challenge of the process. We were the first customers of the day to use a credit card. They had to hunt to find the card machine. When turned on, the machine did not seem to function, producing a small piece of paper that the clerk would look at, crumple up, and throw away. That happened several times. Next, she called over another clerk for assistance; more discarded pieces of paper. Next step: unplug and plug back in the machine—no success. Wait. Let’s try taking the back off and looking inside. Nope, no change. Let’s try tracing the wire from the machine back to its socket. Hooray! Success! It took close to 10 minutes to pay by card. But nobody was upset and we finally completed the transaction. The “nobody upset” included me, which was a surprise.
We were going to have a coffee with Amarita so we headed towards a place where we could sit outside. On the way there, the pedestrian walk was “obstructed” by a parade. It is Carnival (Carnaval de Cádiz) which is a big deal in this district of Spain. Here in Jerez, it was Children’s Carnival of Thursday. What we saw was a parade of children from a local school (or schools) dressed in costumes of all different sorts, themed by grade or class, marching to a small band and drummers. I’d guess there were at least a couple of hundred or more kids ranging from pre-school up to middle school. There were lots of parents accompanying the parade and most—but not all—of the kids seemed to be having a good time. Some of the youngest seemed a little bewildered by what was going on.
In the afternoon we went to another peña performance. The peña Don Antonio Chacón Centro Cultural Flamenco is about a 20 minute walk but we are getting used to the area and the distances, so walks like that are no big deal. The peña was like the others in that it was very crowded and noisy. Most of the people there were local, based on what we saw. I was able to order drinks and tapas (croquetas and garbanzo bean soup) from the crowded and disorganized bar. We were there early enough to see the peña fill up and to hear the musicians practice. We saw the dancer Rocio Marín. She was good and was clearly appreciated by the audience.
When we returned to the apartment it was time to bring in the laundry. Oh, I didn’t mention that with all of our coming and going Patricia found time to do a couple batches of washing which we then hung on lines on the rooftop terrace. It was breezy and sunny and everything dried quickly.
Then it was time to go to our 7 o’clock performance. We walked up to Sala Paúl to see “Ni Tú Ni Yo” (“Neither You or I)”. It was a performance that was incomprehensible to me. I was alerted when, before the show began, I caught “We hope you enjoy the experience” in Spanish which is an announcement I had never heard before. [I wasn’t paying enough attention before that to hear why I had to be warned.] The guitarist Juan Diego Mateos was the only other person in the production. He played almost without interruption for well over an hour and he was very good, although he wasn’t given much to work with.
Why was the espectáculo incomprehensible? It started with Belén Maya kneeling next to [literally] a pile of old clothes. She picked through the pile and made an outfit, which she put on. Then she picked through the pile again, made a second outfit, took off the first, put on the second, took off the second, put on the first again. She went back to the pile, took out some clothes, folded them, move the folded pile to a chair, danced a few steps and went back to the pile of clothes. During this time, only a few steps of dance, no cante, and the guitar was not playing flamenco music. The “play” if that is what it was, continued on in this way. At one point Maya had a tray of fruit which she proceeded to peel. Then she took the peeled fruit into the audience and offered it to the patrons. When the show ended, applause was sparse and I didn’t even have time to take a picture before Maya and Mateos were off the stage. Then they came back with the director, put three chairs at the front of the stage and asked if anyone had questions. Several snarky questions came to mind, but we, with about 90% of the audience, were already leaving as quickly as we could.
We walked back to Villamarta for our 9:00 performance and we talked about what we had seen, so in that sense the Belén Maya show was a success. But perhaps only in that sense.
At Villamarta we saw a wonderful show put on by Sara Baras Ballet Flamenco called “Sombras” (“Shadows”). As I was organizing my thoughts about this show I thought how odd it was that it is more difficult to describe such a good, enjoyable, well-executed show than something like Ni Tú Ni Yo.
The espectáculo was organized around many different flamenco palos (song styles) such as Sombras, Farrucas, and Tangos. Much of the dance was balletic, but at the same time firmly grounded in traditional flamenco. The music was flawless and the tempo changes were well suited to the dance. Lighting was integral to the production as were the costumes. The combination of lighting and costumes added an extra dimension to the show. By this time of the week I have used up all my superlatives, but I should have kept some in reserve for this show. All of the performers, including Israel Fernández, who we heard just the night before, were outstanding, and were completely in sync with one another. Despite Sara Baras being the lead name in the show, she was not present in each segment unlike some other artists, who have to be center stage all the time. [I’m looking at you O. P.] But when she did dance, it was something to see. The audience responded enthusiastically throughout.
At the end of the show (well, it really ended 3 times, or was it 4?) Sara brought Tia Juana la Pipa from the audience to the stage. Tia Juana is a flamenco legend from here. Sara gave a nice speech about her inspiration and what Tia Juana has brought to flamenco that made both women emotional.
There was a lot of positive buzz about the show in the Villamarta lobby and outside.
Our 12 am show at Gonzalez Byass featured the cantaor (singer) David Carpio. He has a powerful voice which he uses to tell stories and evoke emotions. He also announced what kind of palo he was going to sing, which helped me. One of the guitarrista with him was Diego del Morao, whom we had seen the night before at La Guarida.
Unfortunately, the sound was turned up too high for me, so I could not enjoy the subtlety of some of the music. As an added bonus, Manuel Liñán did a set with Carpio where the two played dance (as only Liñán can dance) and voice off of one another. What energy!
You should be able to see why we need more hours in the day and why it takes me so long to write up these experiences.