September 3, 2000
Our plane from Paris was an hour late coming into Sevilla but the trip was smooth. Carlos and Susa both came to greet us, two beautiful dark gypsies, arms outstretched to embrace us. Susa in her long black skirt matching her long black hair looked beautiful. She had not called Carlos Herredia, Freddies guitar teacher, as we had asked by fax when she wrote that she had no car to use, so she worried that no one would come, and so at the last minute she borrowed her neighbors small car so that she could meet us at the airport. Carlos, his straight black hair now long enough to be tied in a low pony tail half way down his back, had come at 10:30 in the morning to wait for our 11:30 plane, so he had waited two hours because of our delay. But they were both glad to see us. Then Susa left and Carlos drove us to La Carboneria in his big car and helped lug our many suitcases up the steep stairs to our old room on the third floor. We arrive. It is hot. The young couple who have been living in our room for quite some time is just moving downstairs to Luis old room. How they must hate it, leaving that light airy private room for a dark windowless room with only a curtain for a door. They now share the second floor with Paco and his other guests. They still have to clean our room and move a few more things. A scrawny Siamese kitten yowls. The displaced couple found the tiny white kitten on the street and have adopted it. Its cat box, water and food are still in our room. Paco is at the Alta Mira having breakfast we are told. We find out later that the Alta Mira has changed its name to Carmela but everyone still refers to it as the Alta Mira. We unpack the guitar case we have brought for Carlos and give it to him along with the nail powders and glue, the blood pressure machine for his mother, the migraine oils for Pili his wife, the toys for his daughters and the musical teether for his newest daughter, two month old Carmen.
We decide to join Paco at Alta Mira (now Carmela) but he has just returned so we invite him back and we all leave to go for coffee. Kalina, the Bulgarian Flamenco dancer we met last year is still working there and we see her there today. It almost feels as if we have never left. When we return Paco calls Concha and I talk to her. I will take her palmas class tomorrow evening.
Finally we start to settle in and begin to unpack and I find that my computer doesnt work. It seems to be a software conflicting problem. I re-installed the system and it still didnt work. I had already run Norton Utilities and Disk doctor. Finally in frustration I started up from my Jazz drive and it seems to be working.
The old church bell clangs. It is eight oclock in the evening. How familiar it all is. And the cat box has been moved!
September 6, 2000
It sure is hard to find time to write.
We went to the first actuacion of the month long Flamenco Bienal tonight and it was only so so until El Mimbre danced and the show came alive and we woke up. This first show of the Bienal was packed with people who had come early to get a good seat. Many of the shows, like this one, have open seating, so the line to get in grows early and stretches for what seem like miles. On the way there, hurrying through a pile of fine, hard sand from the concrete construction theyre doing on the sidewalk, I developed blisters on tops of both my feet. The sand rubbed under the tops of my sandals and by the time we arrived at the mile long line, no more than five or ten minutes at the most, the tops of my feet had blistered severely. I had to borrow Freddies socks to walk home because I couldnt wear my sandals. My blisters were too raw and open. Tonight Ive put vinegar and lemon on them and washed them with Pacos aloe shampoo. Vinegar and lemon mixed in equal parts is Fredd ies old guitarist remedy for quickly drying up blisters on guitarists fingers. Freddie has had me try it before on my toes and it always seems to work. Ill try adding lavender oil soon. Its already four minutes to three AM and I am tired but I wanted to write at least something. I had a two hour private class with Concha today and it was good. Then we and Freddie of course too went out to Casa Diego, where Concha and I ate yesterday with Paco, Pacos daughter Lidia and his homeopathic naturopath doctor friend, Jesus. Everyone remembers us and its like coming home. We havent been away so long that were forgotten. Not only the people at the Carboneria and the people we met through Paco and Luis remember us, but even the shopkeepers and the shoe shine man Julien, whom we befriended last year are overjoyed to welcome us back. Concha loved the dark pink lace beaded mantoncita I brought her. She wants to wear it in the Bienal but I warned her that the heavy beads would swing and hit her when she turned suddenly, which she would do - its happened to me with that type of scarf. So she will wear it for show instead of in the show. Her photo, taken by Pacos son Sergio, is the entire cover of the culture guide El Giraldillo featuring the Bienal del 2000. I am glad for her. She is the most marvelous teacher. And her classes are so much fun. I find myself laughing and pleased with the great rhythmical patterns I am already mastering both in the dance and with my palmas. I have taken Conchas palmas group class and she is now working with palmas in my private class too. But these palmas classes are like nothing I have ever experienced. Theyre difficult counter rhythms that bring a snap and a strength a sense of excitement into the palmas, into the music. Its now a challenge to find the time to practice. I have moved my dance class to four PM and am only doing one one hour class a day, probably during all the Bienal. I will practice in the morning before breakfast, unless I have to go our to get bandaids for my large, raw open blisters ruining the tops of my feet. I now have lavender oil on them and its almost 3:30 AM. Freddie, who was discouraged, is practicing and he sounds great. He is getting things he didnt have before. I love listening to him and writing even though I know I should go to bed so I can get up in the morning to practice, buy a phone, and bandaids and some salve for my feet. We also need dish soap, a bucket, a scrubber We seem to have even less time than I remembered from before. But I am practicing my Spanish hanging out with Concha, and with Susa the other day, and with Paco all people I care about. We also spent some time with Nacha and Jose Luis for an evening at the Alta Mira-now-Carmela before they left for the beach again for eleven days. Nacha looks happy and very together with Jose Luis. She has gained a little weight and it looks good on her. Jose Luis has all his weight still and looks just the same. He talks a lot but it is almost always very interesting. Its just that he doesnt pause for much breath and my comprehension is not quite that fast over that much of a period of time. I can get a few sentences but then my mind has to think about it for a minute. But it is improving since the last time I wrote. So time is spent with friends in Spanish style, and at night we always watch at least one of Carlos, Henrique and Inmas shows. The Italian violinist, Alexi who now lives with his American girlfriend Elizabet in Luis old room, plays with them too and he is good. People still talk about the short little buleras I did with them on Sunday night, the first night I arrived. A lot of people saw it and liked it. The support I get here from everyone is so encouraging. It helps me focus on practicing. Last night I stayed up until past 3 AM watching the videos of my classes and figuring out how to do the palmas Concha showed me. I was able to do all of it today but I havent watched the tapes of today yet because of the Bienal. I will do that in the morning because I cant remember what I learned today because I hung out with Concha instead of going upstairs to watch the video. And because I was exhausted, I took a short nap when I did go up and then got up and had to go to the phone store to find out that we didnt have a pin number now for Conchas phone so it would cost almost as much to replace the card as to buy a new one. So now I still have to buy a movi (mobile) phone. I watched some of the tape of Conchas class and then had to get ready to go to the Bienal. Im not complaining. I wouldnt have it any other way. I would just have longer days . but of course I will figure it out. I managed last time. We saw Bobby Markowitz (a friend from Soquel) last night. He is doing great. He has just moved here from several months of living in Jerez. He has learned that wonderful heavy Jerez comps, similar to Conchas Lebrija style. He also learned a little gypsy buleras dance too and it looked great. He says he would like to move here. Weve never seen him so enthusiastic and happy. Bobbys guitar playing has grown by leaps and bounds. We all wished that Bobbys son Adam, a talented young Flamenco guitarist, would come to Spain to visit. He would be very proud of his Dad. Being here for a while really helps Flamenco. I wonder how we could stay here longer next time. Which months would we choose? Two months seems short now that were here.
September 6, 2000
The cante tonight, the second night of the Bienal, was wonderful. Chocolate, now with gray hair, was wonderfully moving. And I loved his guitarist, Antonio Carrin. We also heard Mayte Martin who was good and so was El Pele. Tonights show was much better than last night. There was one dancer who was technically very good but I wasnt moved. But what moved me today was Conchas generosity and friendship. I took class in my old sandals with my blisters bandaged up. Concha was very caring, telling me I didnt have to take class and to tell her immediately if my feet hurt. After class she asked me if I had brought my shoes like hers that I bought last year. They have a strap across the big toe and one across the top of the arch, so most of my blisters would not be in contact with my shoes, so they wouldnt rub at all. I told her no, that my suitcase had been too full, but I had thought about bringing them but didnt because I was trying not to take too much. Our rhinestone shoes. The arch straps have large rhinestones banding them and a single large rhinestone sits on top of the toe strap. Mine are purple with silver and Conchas, a size or two bigger than mine, are black and silver. I tried on Conchas and she said I could wear them to the Bienal. I asked her what she would wear home and she said, Ill just take a taxi. So I wore Conchas shoes tonight. I walked to the Alcazar patio, which is on one side of the Giralda. I believe it was a copy of the Alhambra, or done by the same architects, I cant remember the story. But it has the feel of a small Alhambra, with ornately carved designs on the white plaster walls, lush gardens, and tall arched Moorish windows. That is what we see when seated in the Patio for the concert. Inside, I know, are more treasures of Arabic art and design. But from the patio, the Giralda rises behind us like a guardian or a companion, a presence felt. A beautiful beautiful place for a concert. A beautiful place to walk to and from, once again through the narrow winding streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz to La Carboneria at 18 Levies street. So today ended up being a good day. But I started it in a foul mood because I couldnt wear my dance shoes; I was tired and upset and very frustrated. But I guess things changed during my class. I felt al lot better after class. But, still discouraged by the state of my feet, I decided to skip the group palmas class and I went instead to the electrical store for more plugs and to the camera store for another smaller mount so we dont have to continually unscrew them when we change cameras on the tripod, which is at least several times a day. We are both videoing lessons, but luckily we have our own cameras and can watch our own lessons at the same time if we want. The camera store didnt have what I needed and told me to bring my camera or tripod to the Corte Ingles, the famous big department store but I didnt have time. And, I havent done that yet today. I turned on the computer instead and wrote this. I didnt even hook up the video camera to it like I did the other day when I was trying to remember the palmas we did. That had helped and it was nice to see my class on a bigger screen with better sound. I have finally figured out how to hook up the sound, something that I hadnt yet mastered last year. We still dont have e-mail yet because the phone line hasnt been brought back up here again. And I know that will take even more time when I get it, but its also nice to be in contact with friends who arent here. We do have friends here too though and its fun. Its now two AM, earlier than when I thought about going to bed yesterday, but I have to get to bed earlier so I can practice in the morning. I didnt make it to the dance floor this morning but I watched both my tapes of the last classes, fast forwarding through the parts of me trying to do what Concha showed me, for lack of time. So I did do something. But tomorrow I want to increase that. I am walking in Conchas shoes, whatever that may mean.
September 7, 2000
I practiced this morning, but carefully and for only an hour in shoes because of my feet. And a lot of my practice was palmas but with the use of my foot too. It felt good but I sure have a lot of work to do, things to learn, steps to do much much faster. But the challenge is good for me and I will do it. My blisters are a little better today. I wore Conchas shoes again to the Bienal which was spectacular tonight. For the third and last time this Bienal, the show was in the Alcazar patio. We saw (and heard) La Paquera, an incredible and powerful gypsy woman singer in her 60s or 70s. Thats when I remembered what really good Flamenco is. It moves me in my gut and my soul in a way that nothing else does. Maybe thats why we become Flamenco addicts. La Paqueras performance tonight was what we wait for in Flamenco. It was that special. And my whole body had to react to it. The Familia Montoya, whom I saw in 1980 here in Spain, also performed tonight. Carmelilla Montoya at the end of the show did an incredible dance. She and La Paquera were certainly the stars for me. All the guitarists and palmeros were good too. And the singer Jose Manese was also good but La Paquera and Carmelilla made the night. That was Flamenco. People in the audience who have been there every night are starting to look familiar. We talked with a dancer we know from Los Angeles, Juan Talavera and his two women friends today when they came to the Carboneria to watch Conchas class that I had told them about yesterday. They loved it and have arranged a semi-private for themselves. They too went to the Bienal tonight. Arturo, a Flamenco guitarist who says that Freddie is famous, is here from New York. We saw Virginia Iglesias as we left the Bienal tonight who said that Patrice Thompson is also here with her husband and two sons. Sevilla is filled with American and Japanese Flamenco addicts, as well as addicts from other countries, all here in addition to the normal tourists, to attend the Bienal. Tomorrow we have a night off and will visit Susa at nine at night. She says she has a special wedding present to give us. We got our e-mail phone connection hooked up today. Alexi, Paco and Freddie strung the line up from Pacos room over the roof and in through the window above and to the right of my computer. I had 43 e-mails today, although some were junk mail. Some were messages that I had to answer. But it was nice to be connected again.
Its two thirty in the morning already so I had better stop writing and think about sleeping. Right now I am excited and happy and I dont want to go to bed. I just know that I want to get up in the morning and practice again like I did today. I am still working on a counter time palmas pattern for my Alegras. Concha says if I dont get it it doesnt matter, I dont need to start with that. But I have two months and I am determined to get it. I kind of know it now, but have to get it perfect every time and then increase the speed. I love it and I want it and I will learn it.
September 9, 2000
We finally have our movi telephone today. The number is 011-34- 686752918. I bought it at Corte Ingles when Concha and I stopped in there after looking at an apartment nearby for Rubina to rent.
September 11, 2000
Last night we saw Juana Amaya & Terremoto in a Flamenco version of Medea at the Maestranza theater. It was great. Even the theater was beautiful and elegant and all the performers were magnificent.
September 15, 2000
Yes, it is hard to write this trip, perhaps because the Bienal adds more to do. But I must write of this. The day before yesterday in my class with Concha I sang Pepito toca me el bas for her , a song by Manuel de Paula which Concha had taught me the year before. She was impressed that I had remembered it and she had me sing it again and then again several times in the group Palmas class. She was so happy that my comps was right on. Then yesterday, she introduced one of the spectators watching the Solea class. He was Manuel de Paula. I was watching the class too, waiting for the Palmas class which was to come next. Freddie was one of the four guitarists playing for the class. Concha wanted Manuel de Paula, a famous singer, to sing but he wouldnt so she sang for her class, as she often does, so we can learn to dance to the cante. Then she asked me to sing Pepito so I did, cold. I sang for Manuel de Paula and he loved it!!!! My thought, sin verguenza which means without shame crept into my mind after I sang. But I remembered the repeated advice of my old Flamenco teacher, Anzonini, a charismatic gypsy singer from Puerta Santa Maria who lived in Berkeley for a few years during the late 1970s. Anzonini used to always tell us to leave our shame outside at the door so I left my shame outside and it felt good. I am not a singer and never will be as I am not a Spanish Gypsy and never will be. So I just sang what I had learned from Concha, in perfect comps, being who I am, an American dancer who loves Flamenco, with nothing to prove. It felt great! Last night, at the Bienal, we heard Rancompino, an incredible singer. The show started at midnight and ended at 2:45 AM and was totally worth the effort. His singing is incredible. I want to buy his CDs now. Tonight we have another midnight show and then again tomorrow, Conchas show, the Great Families of Utrera and Lebrija. Miguel Funi will be in that one too. David Serva (Jones) was supposed to play in it for Miguel Funi but he broke his wrist a few weeks ago while he was in the U.S. and wont be able to play guitar for a while. We dont know the final prognosis, but last time we talked with him he still had metal pins in his wrist and the break was bad. Hopefully he will heal fully and be back at the guitar soon. It is still very hot and humid in Spain, but at night the breeze is cooler and it is not as bad as summer. But it is hot enough so you dont even think of taking a sweater. Mostly we sleep with just a sheet over us if anything at all. And it is humid heat so you sweat a lot. My Alegras is coming along. Its time to go down to the palmas class. Conchas palmas class is incredible and I love it. And it is fun taking a group class and getting to know the other students.
September 16, 2000 Saturday
Conchas show is tonight. Freddie has been sick with the stomach flu for days and has been sleeping all day. I drag him out at night for the show, groaning, and he seems to revive for a while. We have tried various drug store remedies. If he is not well by Monday we will go to a doctor. Last week at 4:00 AM Paco fell down a few stairs and injured his bad leg. After half an hour of bleeding (we were asleep and just heard the story) the ambulance finally arrived and he spent several days in the hospital. Between classes one day we took a taxi with Concha and another guest, from Belgium, Olivia, and visited Paco in his hospital room. Now he is staying at his son, Adans house and the doctor has prohibited him from going up any stairs. Sergio, Pacos son who works here at the Carboneria, is trying to think of a way for him to stay here without having to go up stairs. It feels so empty without Paco and we really miss him.
Last night at the Bienal Flamenco show, Triana Pura, in the courtyard patio of the old Hotel Triana, the weather cooled and everybody froze. Hardly anyone had brought sweaters, and most of the women wore sleeveless, low cut fancy dresses for this wonderful concert of generations of Triana gypsies. Today there is a breeze cutting through the humid heat, but I sweated, dripping, through my whole class with Concha. And I had forgotten my towel. However, my Alegras is coming along well. In less than two weeks I have learned most of it. Conchas thirteen year old son Curro played for my class because Freddie is still too sick. Curro is learning and does not know how to play all of the Alegras so we do the escobilla (foot work) to Solea. He is a handsome kid who has the same olive skinned round face and dark eyes and hair as his younger sister Carmen and his mother Concha. We are all learning, and his mother tells him what she wants played for which step and when to stop and how to strum. He is friendly and Freddie and I both like him a lot. The other day, when Freddie played with him and others for the Solea class, he and Freddie fooled around with the guitars after the class. They both enjoyed that and are developing their own relationship. It is a pleasure to see the parent child relationship in Spain. The parents are so supportive and encouraging and in turn, the children enjoy learning and hanging out with their parents. Concha sings to Curro in class. A lot of the flamenco lyrics talk about my child, Curro (or other names) and it is wonderful to see that relationship for real as Concha sings it to him. It has real meaning then. Paco just bought Curro a good guitar and Curro seems to be playing it constantly.
A lot of Flamencos from the Bay area are here for the Bienal and it is funny running into so many Americans we know. Bobby is here, as I wrote before, and looks absolutely great. He has a beautiful girlfriend and weve never seen him happier. My Spanish has returned and it is now better than before. I am starting to understand most of what people say when they speak normally fast, which is very very fast.
The list of Bay Area Flamencos is like a whos who of Flamenco. Kenny Parker was here today in the Carboneria giving me advice on restaurants. Rubina came in the other day and now has her own apartment and will stay for six months. She also has a movi. Barbara Evans has been hanging out with us. She is studying Spanish at a school here. Weve seen also David Gutierrez and Joanna who still havent gotten their luggage, Patrice Thompson, Virginia Iglesias, and Monique. Juan Talavera, from Los Angeles, and his two friends, Kathy and Gloria, have taken classes from Concha. Maybe well still be able to find a way to bring Concha to California.
September 18, 2000
We saw Conchas show the night before last, the Gran Families of Utrera and Lebrija, in the Hotel Triana. It was wonderful. Bernarda de Utrera, now blind and in her seventies, sang beautifully, her voice still strong and powerful. Juan del Gastor played guitar in David Servas place. David and Clara were there, sitting with us in the audience. David now walks with a beautiful cane and his arm, still with some pins in it, is in a sling. Pepa de Benito sang wonderfully too. Miguel Funi danced and sang. But Concha, as the newspaper reviews said, was the Queen. She danced so beautifully. And she wore the new maroon/pink lace and beaded scarf I brought for her. She took it off when she danced the first time but wore it for a final buleras. She danced and looked like the queen she is. Afterwards Concha invited us and we all went out with the performers for una copa, a drink at a little restaurant near the Hotel Triana.
Last night we saw Jose Merc at the elegant Maestranza theater. Merc is a wonderful modern young singer and the audience went crazy with appreciation. They made him sing two encores. Freddies health is much better now. I am glad.
Yesterday before the show, I visited Paco with Rubina, Concha and Conchas husband Rafael. Paco is doing well, temporarily living at his son Adans house. We watched videos of our wedding and I brought the photos too. He loved it. He recognized a lot of faces in our video of people he knew, people who had either stayed here at la Carboneria or had passed through and met him. He also was trying to remember our neighbor Johnnys nickname, which he finally did: Johnny Basura. He thought that was funny. (Basura means garbage and Johnny loves to re-claim old garbage). Paco goes back to the hospital for an opinion on his progress today. I really miss his presence around the Carboneria.
It rained a little today and has cooled off a lot.
I was talking to Ryan tonight. He is staying in the bed that is on the opposite wall of Pacos sitting room with the round table that people used to spend so much time sitting around. He is 29 years old, an ex-high tech worker who was turned onto Flamenco by Chris Carnes when they met in San Luis Obisbo where they were both living at the time. Ryan, then a college student, happened to visit a club where Chris was playing and Ryan fell in love with Flamenco and started studying guitar with Chris. Then Ryan went to Spain for ten months and learned Spanish. It was on that first trip that he met Paco, on Chris recommendation, and he has been a frequent guest of Pacos here on the second floor of the Carboneria ever since. Ryan has lived at the Carboneria four different times, including this one. We got to talking about the Carboneria tonight, the incredible magic of it. This has been Freddies and my first experience of returning to the Carboneria. I never would have even thought of what that would be like. But it is as if my whole awareness has just expanded. First of all, as I may have written, many things are where we left them last year. I dont know what I expected. I never thought about it. My shopping cart is still next to the refrigerator under our stairs. A bucket we left was still waiting for us. If I had known, I wouldnt have given away our plates and silverware. And in the Carboneria, there is always a wealth of old furniture, much of it crumbling, stashed in back of something I had never explored before. When I need something, I start looking around the second floor for an unused but not broken item. Ryan pays attention to what is there and what is still there on his next visit. I know, from the way Paco has spoken of him, that he really likes Ryan. Ryan is the next generation Bohemian artist. He thinks of Paco like a grandfather. The Bohemian artist is what Paco attracts to himself, those are the people he invites into his home, the wooden second floor of the Carboneria. Each person who is Pacos guest most likely has something special to add. Most are artists of some sort, dancers, musicians, painters. Sometimes Pacos naturopath doctor friend stays for a few days. Sometimes Flamenco aficionados (people who love and are addicted to Flamenco) pass through, like Olivia from Belgium. She is in love with the Flamenco cante (song). Those who stay here are people from all over the world, a mixture of cultures and music. I feel honored to be among the distinguished list of Pacos guests. The magic of that large attic room, the second floor, to which you emerge into from the trap door at the top of the steep stairs, the deep magic of that room seeps into you slowly, bit by bit. I have just realized that, as I return to this temple of artists. On this floor, suddenly you are out of the public and into the upper world of Pacos home, his private space. I know I have tried to describe it before, but I dont know if I will be redundant here or will be able to enlarge the picture, to define more detail of the canvas of Pacos home. To the right, where Olivia stayed, is a bed and a window to the street. The slant of the attic keeps it dark in that corner, in spite of the big rectangular window where Paco keeps many large plants. Paco loves plants, and as I have said, his patio down stairs is filled with plants of all sorts, from banana trees and trees in barrels to vines climbing around the walls, as Freddie says, vines making a green tapestry on the white walls and overhead clinging from tree to tree to make shade. The magic of the second floor is subtle but strong. Sometimes people make small changes. A table is moved. A bed changes position. A curtain is added. But still many paintings adorn the walls and many more are stacked next to walls, behind chairs and tables. When did Paco collect all this? From who? For what? Is it still continuing? The blue and yellow soap dish I bought for the bathroom is no longer there, but an ugly white one has replaced it. But its better than the round white saucer I replaced with the pretty soap dish from Isla Cristina. Mine probably broke. The light bulb over the sink is back. Ryan has slept in every bed but one here at the Carboneria. The view from each one is different, the feeling different, he says. It is interesting. If I were young and single that would sound nice. But as a newly married woman in my fifties, I am glad that we again have this room and the third floor. We need this privacy, a place where Freddie can practice as long as he wants, where I can dance in front of the broken mirror on the inside of the closet door, a place where it is light and airy, a place for the computer and the cameras, our high tech input into this ancient art form. Again, we are so lucky to have this luxury.
There is a nostalgic feeling here too on the second floor. Every time I look at a photo to the left of the bathroom as you enter, I see a young Paco standing with two smiling women, frozen in time in a browning black and white photo. When I see that photo that feeling of nostalgia comes to me. I become again acutely aware of the passing of time, of aging, of the cycle of life. What will happen when Paco dies? VThe unspoken question. May he live long and happily. Knock on wood, which they also say here in Spain, of course in Spanish. Pacos fall has stirred up these feelings in many of us here, VVso many people are touched by Pacos generosity. Not only does Paco open his place to his guests, but he always gives money to the many street performers, shoe shiners, and plain beggars who come to him for money. And many people come to Paco for money, to borrow big sums and small, and who knows what else. Everyone is always in need at some time and Paco is the benevolent lender if someone else hasnt just gotten to him first. He has always told us to help ourselves to anything he has. Thats why we made such an effort to make sure that we could do everything we could for Paco when he came to visit. We wanted to give him some of what he gives others. So part of being here, because of Pacos assorted collection of things combined with his generosity, is scrounging around for unused treasures to make our room more comfortable. Ryan does that too and I imagine many others have done that as well. Little environments develop here as people moves things around to meet their needs.
Chris Carnes spirit just came to all of us. Ryan is here in our blue trimmed white room playing guitar with Freddie and we all stopped to talk of Chris and I said I could picture him looking down on us and Ryan and Freddie both felt him in the corner. Chris, who recently died, was a good friend of Pacos for many years. In fact, Paco came to California to visit us last fall in order to see Chris again before he died. Sergio, Pacos son who works here, gave me a pastel drawing he had just made today of the front door of the Carboneria. He is also an excellent photographer and last year the Carboneria had many of his photos on postcards. This year the post cards are different and when I asked about it, he said, Oh, last years post cards, but of course it was in Spanish. Sergio is more friendly this year. Coming back, people come back again and again, while others only pass through once or twice. We want to be the people who come back again and again. Ryan says that each time he returns the experience deepens and it takes less time to get back into it.
September 19, 2000
I forgot to write last night about the French television crew who is here doing an article on Flamenco. They interviewed Concha at length after her show and then yesterday they videoed her six oclock class and also interviewed her again. Some of what she said, about dancing the spirits of her ancestors in her dance, gave me goose pimples. She again referred to herself at the sweet panther (Pantera Dulce), a good description. She also talked about how she loses her self when she dances, because she is (and these are my own words interpreting her Spanish) being a channel for a great energy, the spirits of her dead ancestors. The French crew was in love with her. They wanted to take a private dance lesson today! It looks like Concha will get the kind of success she deserves, a success that is continually growing. She is very eloquent, both verbally and of course in dance. It is raining today and cooler.
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.
Marianna & Federico Mejia