Festival De Jerez, Spain: Tangos

11 Mar

It’s Sunday afternoon following the last night of the two-week Flamenco Festival and I’m back in Cadiz taking a little holiday. You may scoff but this is one festival that’s hard work for participants!

Highlights of the final week were:

Class with Angel Muñoz: Angel’s choreography is always inventive, this time for Tientos and Tangos at basic level (although I maintain it is more like intermediate). He has a lyrical but strong dance style, and attends equally to all his students whatever level they are at.

In the first class he greeted returnees (like me) with big smacking Spanish cheek kisses until one of the new students said, ‘And what about us?’, at which he proceeded to kiss every one of the 25 students including the two men.

There’s a joke that Angel is like the sun because he generates enormous amounts of physical energy that radiate out to his students. Class is supposed to go for an hour and fifty minutes and Angel has already taught a class beforehand of the same duration. Most maestros would be eager to head to the bar for a beer but not Angel. The guitarist would cue that time is up by twanging out a TUM ta ta tum tum TUM TUM banjo style. Angel would give him a nod and carry on well past the hour. Both musicians were very patient. The singer rarely got the chance to sing as we spent so much time drilling, but when he did it was gorgeous.

I have the pleasure of knowing Angel’s beautiful wife, Charo Despina Delgado, who is also an acclaimed flamenco dance artist, and she maintains that he is always the same – full throttle when it comes to dance.

Week Two Performances (details on the ‘Flamenco’ page): I focussed on the Villamarta shows and some Sala Compañia since the peñas had been overcrowded. Amongst a constellation of talent the stand outs of the week for me were the entire Rocio Molina show, ‘La Moneta’s’ intense buleria, Maria Pages’ company dancers, Joaquin Grilo’s final buleria, Rafael Utrera’s voice, Gerardo Nuñez’s guitar performance and everything Manuel Liñan did. Not a bad week!

Food and Social Life: The little rituals one develops in Jerez, a first pre-Villamarta one euro olorosso secco and montadito tortilla in El Pasaje from Alejandro, followed by a second sherry and some good strong cheese from Antonio in La Reja never pall. A quick beer and some great music at El Ariate before Sala Compañia. This year I also had the pleasure of fellow guests’ company at Hotel Casa Grande a few times when the manager, Monika, cracked a bottle of cava or sherry and we’d gather in the hotel bar to preview and review the flamenco. Many of the guests have been coming more than ten years so there were quite a few afficionados amongst the eclectic international crowd.

We also enjoyed meeting the former bull fighter Señor Diego, ‘El Morenito De Jerez’ at his restaurant, La Mejorana (off Plaza Arenal) where he serves up delicious wine and food, including bull delicacies should you be so inclined (he’s the one pictured with the bull). Gallo Azul’s chef is still one of the best in Jerez and La Manzanilla cafe near Villamarta has the kindest waiter who made my daily post practice pot of tea (one pot hot water and pot of hot milk) for one euro with a wide smile. Throw in a tostada with olive oil and fresh tomato puree for only another 40 cents. The living is good and great value in Jerez!

Treats: I can’t imagine a better way to unwind sore muscles and be pampered than to take to the baths at the Hammam Andalucia. We started with the warm pool, graduated to hot then dipped into the cold in three cycles to get the skin tingling and heart racing. After relaxing with some sweetened mint tea we were led away for fifty minutes of silken fingered bliss with a eucalyptus aromatherapy massage.

¡Hasta Jerez 2013 mis amigos!

Photo note: The three amigos are Lola (2 IC at Hotel Casa Grande) on left, me and Monika on right. The flamenco class photo was taken by Angel’s 5-year-old daughter Maria, a flamenca in training. The show photos are Manuel Linan, ‘La Moneta’ and Joaquin Grilo and Company. Our class guitarist was Jesus Alvarez and singer Paco ‘Gasolina’ Hiso. I always get a kick out of Spanish underwear – see the control girdle with the secret zipped pocket and the panties with the built in butt.

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