September 21, 2000
I am on a good practice schedule now. I set the alarm and get up by 10 AM at the latest, get dressed, make and drink a green drink, get the days vitamins together and sometimes straighten up a little or wash the glasses. I get down to the dance floor between 10:30 and 11:00 AM and then practice until Conchas 12 oclock class. Then I go upstairs and get Freddie and we go out for breakfast. We return in time for my 2 oclock class which Freddie was well enough to play for today. Then, if the 3 oclock slot after my class is free, I practice again because there are no more free hours on the dance floor. At least this week and last week, Concha is teaching classes all the way through until eight oclock when the Carboneria opens, although on the two days that dont have the seven oclock palmas class, sometimes there is an hour from seven until eight to practice if Concha hasnt filled it with another private. Today at three I practiced with Elizabet and Rubina. Rubina sang for me and I danced my Alegras, making up what I didnt know so it would go with her cante. It was good and it was fun. And it reminded me that I can dance. Sometimes I forget about the dance aspect because there is so much that I dont know; and there is so much that I am learning right now. Today in class Concha was saying how I shouldnt do the steps as fast as the young girls, how I cant and neither can she, although I think she can VIve seen her. I felt deprived because I wanted all the footwork that everyone else in the group class has. I feel that I can do it; I still have the stamina. But I certainly cant do it as fast as the young ones. Carlos said today that it is harder both to dance and to play guitar slow and that it was prettier that way too, done more slowly. When I watch my footwork on the video it does sound nice slow, because it is clean and it is accented. But Freddie and I are both aware that are bodies are mortal and aging and we dont know how long they will hold out. His arm is hurting and he will probably need his rotator cuff operation after all. He is just getting over a cold after having had the stomach flu. You get sick more easily when you are 61 like Freddie instead of 21 or 31. And I am aware that I will be fifty six in a month. That sounds old. How long can this old body go on doing this kind of intense movement? I hope for a long time . I feel that it will but my mind knows that bodies do get old and give out. And there arent many eighty year old flamenco dancers that Ive ever heard about. How about being sixty in only four years? Sixty sounds old for a dancer. What about sixty five? Seventy? Thats not that far off. Elizabet, who lives on the second floor, does not have the drive to practice fanatically, the desperation to use every spare hour like I do. One, she lives here so she has time and doesnt have to learn it in a short amount of time before she goes. And two, she is very young, in her twenties, so she has years of having a good body, years to dance and to learn. In thirty years she will be my age, so she probably has at least that much time. I have no idea how much time I have left so I feel compelled to do what I can in the time I do have left, be it a year or ten years or even fifteen (Id be seventy one then!). Somehow fifty six, which I will be in one month, sounds a lot older than fifty five when I relate it to dance.
In her interview today with the French journalists, Concha said that she has to dance to live. What will she do when she gets too old to dance? I asked her the other day to teach me, before I go home, the buleras that the old people do, the subtle but powerful moves that even the very old gypsies seem to do masterfully. Ive always loved that stuff, the old Flamenco that people do at home and at parties. So maybe Concha will never be too old to dance like the old people. She and I are a lot a like, although we are from totally different cultures and backgrounds. We feel the same about dance and we are both Flamenco addicts. She was born into this culture and the culture grabbed me when I was already grown. But there is that knowing between us that seems hard to describe.
Freddie is listening to Carlos on his tape doing the same thing. Carlos is just fooling around showing Freddie chord progressions and there is this beautiful, rippling music flowing out of him. Carlos. When he speaks, Carlos often accentuates what he is saying with a flow of guitar music. You can hear it on the tape. Hell say something and then play its expression and then continue the conversation. I love that about him. Music is a part of him as it is of Freddie. Freddie and I are starting to talk about what we will do when he gets too old to play guitar, when his body will no longer let him play and when my body gets too old to dance. I say we could always sing. Freddie still wants to create a Flamenco school and also sponsor Flamenco artists to come to California from Spain. It is something to think about while we enjoy what are bodies can still do. Ah, mortality.
September 22, 2000
At five oclock, starting this Monday, Concha teaches a new Buleras class which I plan to take. Then, on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays at seven PM is the incredible palmas class that Concha teaches and that I also have been taking in addition to my daily private classes for Alegras. On the week days Concha teaches group dance classes in Solea, Siguiriyas and Buleras at six oclock, depending on the day. The dollar is very good right now here in Spain so its a good time to cash in for pesetas. You can watch any of the classes too, so sometimes I watch the Solea class which is three days a week right now. There is almost always an audience for all her classes and at least three or four guitarists for the group dance classes. When you come to the dance classes, unless you live upstairs like we do, you enter La Carboneria through a door on Cespedes Street. During the day it is usually left partially open. It is brown with green trim on the top and it has vines growing around it because Paco loves plants. It is the only door like that on Cespedes Street. There is a photo of it on our web site. You get there by walking from Calle Santa Maria La Blanca to the Hotel Fernando III (Tres). Go down that street that looks like a small alley, and La Carbonerias back door, which opens into the patio, will be on your left shortly before you reach Calle Levies, which is where the front door of La Carboneria is. That door is red and does not have a name on it. But, it has plants hanging from the window above it, which I described when I wrote about the second floor. Across the street from the red front door is a statue imbedded in the wall about ten feet up from the street. We think it is of Saint Anthony. The saint carries a baby. La Carboneria opens at 8:00 PM. and then, when it is officially open, you go in the front door. But, during the day, while the Carboneria is not open to the public, the dance students walk through that magic back door to La Carbonerias patio and Conchas classes. One can hear the dancing coming from the stage in the far left corner in the covered room next to the patio. It sits on another level, about four feet higher than the other floor, so you can see it from down below as you enter. As I have said before, how lucky we are to get to experience this wonderful infusion of Flamenco right here where we live.
Concha, my incredible dance teacher, is leaving in November for three weeks to do a tour of teaching and performing in the U.S. She will be in New York, Chicago, and Albuquerque. Its too bad we couldnt get her to California also on that tour. But I dont know how, so it will have to be another time. And she is going to France as soon as she gets back, to teach and perform there so she wouldnt even have time to add California to her tour this time. Im glad we didnt plan to stay longer so I could study longer with Concha, because she will be away! We timed it just right! We saw Inez Bacan and Curro Malena last night at the Teatro Alameda in the Macarena district on the other side of Sevilla. The theater is small and looks sort of like a gym with bleachers, but these singers, Gypsies from Lebrija, were both great. Inez is Pedro Bacans sister. Pedro was a wonderful guitarist whom I mentioned in last years writings. He was killed in a car accident. His children and his American wife Jill still live in Sevilla, on the outskirts of Sevilla. Inez is a strong, powerful and beautiful singer. I first was aware of hearing her singing on a CD called Solera produced by Pedro, part of a set of four. Concha dances on that one too and it was one of my favorites long before I met Concha. Inez has a warm, sincere personality and was inspired when she asked if her gente, her people were here, and they yelled back yes , etamo aqu from the audience. And tonight we started attending the back to back shows of the bienal. At nine we went to the beautiful and ornate Lope de Vega theater for Israel Galvans interpretation of a Flamenco version of Metamorphosis by Kafka. It was almost three hours long but we both loved it. Some people hated it and I hadnt expected to like it from the reports of those who went the evening before. But we had our tickets so we went and we both loved it. Jos Galvan, his wife, and his daughter Pastora danced in the first half. Israel is the son and he danced all the way through it, of course because he produced it. His style was very modern which I usually do not like, but it worked well in this production. And at intermission Jos came into the audience and was greeting and talking with the many people he knows. He remembered me and that I was from Santa Cruz. What a memory that man must have. He and Pastora both danced beautifully tonight.
When that show ended we rushed outside to find a taxi. When the second one was nabbed by people farther up the street from us, I started to panic a little so I went up to that taxi and asked the passengers if they were going to Hotel Triana. Thats where the twelve midnight show would be in fifteen minutes. They were and they let us join them in the taxi. On the way we discussed Metamorphosis with them which they thought was too long and too modern. Then we discussed some of the other Bienal shows. When we arrived a few minutes later at Hotel Triana, Freddie insisted on paying for the taxi so the couple then invited us out for a quick copita, a little drink. I wanted to be sure I got a good enough seat, so Freddie went to the bar for the copita with them and I went to find a seat, which was easy because our friend Laura had saved us two. Freddie arrived just in time for the show. Jerez, Al son de Moraito, began promptly at 12:10. Moraito is a great guitarist and he had good singers and some older ladies doing the old kind of Gypsy Flamenco dance I want to learn. Then I will still be able to dance when I get too old to do what I am doing now. My only criticism of this show is that it was too short.
Tomorrow night, Saturday, we see Manuela Carrazco dance at nine PM also at Lope de Vega and then at midnight we go back to Hotel Triana to hear Chano Lobato sing in the Sounds of Cadiz. What could you say no to? You just do it. Sunday we see Antonio el Pipa dance. We saw him several times last year and we love him. Monday we will hear Conchas niece, Esperanza Fernandez, sing. We met her at Conchas party last year and we also saw her perform last year. She is very popular right now and is a good singer.
September 23, 2000
A lazy Saturday. I canceled my class and am only doing laundry until it is time to go out to our two shows. We are tired and are taking our rest. Paco might be coming home in a week. Yesterday Luis and Freddie went to visit him at his son Adns new two story house on the outskirts of Sevilla. I talked to Paco this morning. I am getting less afraid of speaking Spanish on the phone. We really miss Pacos presence here. Laundry still dries amazingly quickly here in the Spanish sun. I worried that the sheets would not be dry in time to make the bed before we leave, and in half an hour they are already dry, except for the corners of the bottom sheet. We hung them on lines strung on our balconies. We often sit on the larger balcony in the early evening, looking at the church across the way and looking down at the statue of Saint Anthony holding the child in the alcove in the wall. We watch the swallows as the light begins to fade and night starts to descend. This time of year the night seems to bring a coolness to the last heat of the day.
Manuela Carrazco tonight was a dancing shaman, moving energy with such skill and beauty, force and emotion. Her Siguiriya brought tears streaming down my eyes, and there were many others in the audience who also were crying. We sat in the front row center for the best show weve ever seen. Manuela Carrazco was magnificent.
September 30, 2000
Freddie is now on antibiotics and is feeling much better. We think he might have had pneumonia as his chest hurt and he had a deep, nagging cough and no energy. Anyway, the antibiotics made a big difference. His walk has gained momentum and is no longer as slow as dragging mud. His breathing is deeper and not painful, but he is still very tired and is sleeping a lot. I have almost finished learning the choreography of my Alegra I just need the Silencio and then I start seriously working on the style. We have seen some wonderful shows during this Bienal Manuela Carrazco (dance) was incredible and Antonio el Pipa (dance) was also excellent. Inez Bacan (cante) was wonderful. Curro Malena (cante) was good too. The other night we saw Jos de la Tomasa (cante) who also was wonderful. Then last night we saw Eva la Yerbabuena who danced beautifully and after that Las Tres Mil, which Carlos Heredia played in. Tres Mil is the name of a very large Gypsy housing project in Sevilla where Carlos lives. The show included three young little girls and another young girl all of whom sang and danced beautifully, thus assuring the audience that Flamenco will live on, at least through the next generation. It was very inspiring. The second half of the show featured the singer Juana la del Revuelo and her family. At the end, she presented her surprise guests, three little boys from the family of El Farruco, an incredible dancer who is now dead. However, his legacy lives on in his family, and these little boys were three of his grandchildren. The youngest looked about five years old. An older teen aged grandson is currently on tour with Juan del Gastor and so couldnt join this show. But these three incredible children all danced in the style of their famous grandfather and they all danced incredibly, like little Farruco clones. At first we thought they were midgets, they danced so well, like adults. What they will do when they grow up we will see. Will they continue the Farruco tradition or will they personalize it? Will they become modern or will they continue in the old tradition? The Farruco family, Los Farrucos has a dance school here in Sevilla with a wonderful reputation, so hopefully this phenomenal style will live on.
I learned a lot about style from watching Eva la Yerbabuena in the 5 Mujeres 5 show we saw just before Las Tres Mil show. Eva la Yerbabuena did a Siguiriyas in which she used a lot of the steps I learned from Concha last year, but they looked very different because she had stylized the movements so that they were her own. But I recognized the steps and it is as if a light bulb came on inside me and I realized how I could start to personalize my steps at a different level.
Tonight we are playing hooky and have forfeited our tickets to the midnight Huelva show of the Bienal because we are just too tired to go out, especially outdoors that late to Hotel Triana again where it is now cold. Last night I got chilled there when we saw Las Tres Mil at midnight and today I have a sore throat and am very tired. So Freddie and I are trying to take care of ourselves and we stayed home tonight. But Luis is singing tonight downstairs with Gary Hays who is playing for him, so we will try not to miss that. At this point Luis is not a regular here so we want to get to see him now.
We just caught Luis second act and then saw Carlos, Inma, Enrique and Alexi do their show. Its a good thing we took a long nap today because its after three AM. and we are not in bed yet. Tomorrow we plan to visit Paco again with Concha and Rubina. It is easier and easier to understand Paco on the telephone and gradually I am losing my fear of telephone conversations in Spanish.
October 1, 2000 Sunday
It is a sunny fall day outside and Freddie still sleeps a lot but I am feeling better today than yesterday. I took a day off from practicing yesterday but last night when we were downstairs waiting for Luis second show to begin, Carlos showed me again a bulera pattern he had showed me one day after Freddies class. I was able to do it last night. So even not dancing, I am dancing a little. I also went through my new buleras from our group class, there on the stone floor next to the bar by the stairs, while we were waiting. I havent decided if I will practice today, but I might if there are no unexpected surprises. We have only three more shows for the Bienal and we are glad. We are full of shows right now! Today starts the beginning of our second and last month here. Time is rushing by. We hear that it gets uncomfortably cold in the winter so we are glad that we did not plan to be here then, but still I dont want to think about returning home. Although I love our home, I am also in love with Spain. Maybe returning twice a year will help.
At breakfast today we ran into Angela the Gypsy rosemary seller whose photo from last year is on our web site. She asked us where we had been. Again, it is as if we had never left. She only comes by on Sundays and this is the first time we have seen her since we have returned. We tried eating partridge and rice for breakfast this morning, a Sunday special at el Corbobes restaurant. It was interesting. Before we left to eat, we talked to Paco this morning and will visit him this evening. He always seems happy to hear from us.
October 2, 2000
I did practice on Sunday. No one else was downstairs and it felt very private and spacious and luxurious. I felt as if I had the whole place to myself. However, soon after I had started to warm up, the public telephone in the Carboneria started to ring. That phone is also the official phone number for the Carboneria and it is always a way to reach Concha when she is teaching. I didnt answer it because I was enjoying my privacy and didnt want to deal with anything else. Then my movi rang and without thinking I answered that. Rubina and Luis were at the Alta Mira and Rubina wanted to practice but they couldnt get in to La Carboneria because nobody was there and it was all locked up. It was they who had been calling on the public pay telephone. But now I was there and I could let them in. Rubina said that they would be there in fifteen minutes, but in reality it was half an hour so I got a little more time to myself. And there went the rest of my private practice time. But, I did have an excellent practice with Rubina until it was time to stop and get ready to see Paco. We were to meet Concha at the Alta Mira at six PM. I helped Rubina learn some steps and she helped me get some of my steps in comps and also helped correct some stylistic flaws in the new movements I am learning. And it was inspiring for me to dance my Alegras to her cante (singing).
In the early evening we went to see Paco and he is more depressed than before. He is ready to come home but his leg is not fully healed and he is still forbidden to go up stairs. We talked with Adn about putting an electronic seat on the stairs or putting in an elevator. He was thinking along those lines too and will look into it, but in Spain, things move slowly, so we dont know when that will happen. They want to fix up the office next door to La Carboneria for Paco to stay in, but he wants to be in La Carboneria itself. In addition to this situation, Adns wife is expecting their first child in five days. I doubt that Paco will be moved before then, but we shall see. They were cleaning his bed and his room in La Carboneria today.
Freddies old friend from the Renaissance Faire, Trent Anderson and his wife Joanne and their son Ross are here for a few days. They arrived yesterday and are staying at the beautiful Hotel Casa Juderia near the Alta Mira, where my sister Lainey and her husband Ken stayed last year. Martina, our friend through my cousin Rosannes daughter Leilani, is here for two weeks taking a Spanish course, at the same school that Barbara Evans went to. Martina is even staying with the same person, Lola, in the Macarena, that Barbara stayed with a few weeks ago. Last year, in our luxurious dance studio at our home in Soquel, Martina and Leilani both took semi-private Flamenco technique and comps lessons from Freddie and me. We had a great time teaching them and it felt good to supplement what Martina learned in the group class she was also taking in Santa Cruz with the elements we considered important to learning Flamenco. We taught the girls what we consider to be the bones of Flamenco, how to hear the music, how to recognize the different forms, how to do simple counter time, and very important, how to accentuate the accents, how to dance the accents. So Martina is now in Spain. We went to the Tres Mil performance with her and she has watched some of Conchas classes. She was going to Cadiz yesterday. Another old friend of Freddies just showed up today, Grant. Grant is also a friend of Freddies friend Feathers, a guest at our wedding. But Grant found out through the Flamenco grapevine that we were in Sevilla and that is how Grant found us here at La Carboneria. He and his girlfriend will watch the Buleras class tomorrow with Freddie and then they will go looking for a guitar for Feather and hopefully for Freddie too. I have to wait around for my Palmas class at seven so I wont go with them, but maybe Carlos will. He had said he wanted to. Concha was kind enough to change our Monday comps class to Tuesday for me because the show we were going to tonight at the bienal started at seven this evening instead of at nine or midnight like the others. The show we saw tonight was a wonderful guitar performance by Nio de Pura, Manolo Franco and some excellent guitar playing friends of theirs. We almost didnt go but luckily we did, since we had the tickets. The music was great and it was a treat. Since tonight was warm and balmy, we ate dinner afterwards at the Bacalao, sitting outside at a table on the sidewalk watching all the people walking along the big street downtown near the Corte Ingls. Then we walked up Calle (street) Cuna to Plaza Salvador and turned left, passing Bar Europa where we used to sometimes eat breakfast last year, and then we entered into the small and narrow shop lined street that opens to Plaza Alfalfa. Freddie says that on Sundays this plaza is filled with people selling birds. He went once with Luis and I think I might have mentioned it in last years Chronicles.
From there it is just five minutes to Santa Maria la Blanca and to la Carboneria. The walk home took less time than the taxi ride there. And now we are home relatively early with a little space to write. My dance schedule here is changing again, at least for the next three days. Some dancers from California had told Concha about four months ago that they wanted four hours a day for three days in the first week of October, but they had not confirmed it since, so she figured they had forgotten. Then they called her yesterday to say they were here so she will teach them from ten in the morning to 12 noon. Then she will teach Rubina at 12 and me at 1:00. She will teach them again for two hours in the afternoon, probably from three to five after which she teaches the group buleras class, the Solea class and then the palmas class. Or, she may start them at two, after my class and give herself a break before the group classes. Im not sure, but I got upset when she told me today because I wont have a practice time before class, which I need. But then Concha said I should practice on the little rickety wood platform in the front room of la Carboneria. I will. It will be better than nothing. And I didnt learn anything new in my class today anyway, only polishing and fine tuning what I am doing. I am only missing the Silencio now in my choreography. Concha had Rubina sing in my class because Freddie didnt play for my class. He was too busy practicing for his four oclock class with Carlos.
And in the buleras class today we learned something I already had learned in my Alegras, so I dont have to concentrate on anything new at least. I just have to go over what I have already learned to cement it into my memory and to make my feet and body learn to do the steps better. Concha says I have made amazing improvements even since last year. But sometimes I feel discouraged, although I can see that I am picking up steps and choreographies much much faster than I did last year. Concha is a very encouraging person and I love her more and more. David and Clara are looking for an apartment in Sevilla to live in while Clara uses her grant money here. The pins are out of Davids wrist but his wrist has restricted movement and is still quite swollen. Davids sense of humor is there, however, giving him a surprisingly positive feeling, considering the enormity of how his injured wrist will impact his life. I wanted to just mention another interesting observation Ive made. The really moving and good dancers seem to dance shamanically, dance as a link to the spirit world and the physical world. You could see the energy being channeled down from above by Manuela Carrazco; Concha has spoken of how she dances the spirits of her dead relatives; of course the Gypsies would have access and familiarity with and to the world of the spirits. Its just not spoken about a lot in California. But I am convinced that part of the art of dancing, in addition to the steps and the comps, posture and all the other technique, is that of opening as a channel to the spirits, of bringing that spirit energy into the physical reality through dance. Probably we all know this but we forget to include it in the dance lessons. We also forget, often, to include it in our own dance, we work so hard on the other aspects. But I need to remember to work with the energy more and more because I know I can do it; I already do it with my journeying and at times when I dance, but not enough yet. Dancing is magic. Dancing is a prayer. Dancing is a powerful communication, a healing. Dancing is a moving of energy. And when I forget this basic knowledge, I forget how to dance. And when I see other dancers here knowing the same, it validates my own knowing. I never expected to get filled spiritually like this here in Spain. But that spirituality is at the root of the dance.
Marianna & Federico Mejia