March in Seville: The rain in Spain falls mainly on Andalucia

16 Mar

I’m a star fish in a warm, blue pool staring up at an intricately carved wooden ceiling, letting the current carry me. Trick to floating is to fill your lungs and hold your breath, replenishing a little at a time. It becomes yoga breathing and I almost enter a trance. The only sound is the pulse in my ears. I breathe in cinnamon and roses from scented candles.

This is my treat after the final week of flamenco classes in Seville, a session in the Baños Arabes Aire Seville. I’ve never missed a class and one of the motivations not to is my promise to self that if I don’t I will have earned this indulgence. Besides the calming waters and the gentle ministrations of the masseuse the glorious thing is the jacuzzi which has a jet of water I call ‘the pulveriser’. Directed on shoulders and back for ten minutes or so it gets rid of most of the tension before I even lie down. Today classical Spanish guitar music was playing and I swear the massage therapist timed her well oiled strokes to coincide with the flourishes of the guitar. Bliss……

This March fortnight has been a different kind of Seville experience. The only sunshine came in the final three days so each day was a slog on foot through driving rain and cold, sometimes accompanied by brass bands rehearsing their marching songs for Semana Santa. My waterproof Ugg boots earned their keep as I wore nothing but those and flamenco shoes.

Apart from the two Sunday nights I returned from Jerez I saw a flamenco show every night. A few mediocre but the rest riveting. I’d be lying if I said my favourite was any other that the Juan Requena, Jose Angel Carmona and Joaquin Grilo show in Cajasol. There was major duende in the room that night! I went straight home after the show to be sure of getting a good night’s sleep before my last classes with Maestra Pilar Ogalla and missed the chance of a lifetime. A friend I’d had a drink with before the show went back to the same bar and who should waltz in? All the artists including Joaquin! I clearly need to develop more stamina.

The shared apartment in La Macarena has worked out well apart from the forced march. I enjoy the characters inhabiting the streets, including the mini-skirted, peroxide blonde 50-something hooker who works one lane back from Alameda most evenings. I’ve seen her standing in pouring rain, always with a lit cigarette and inevitably get a smile and a ‘Hola chica’ when I greet her.

My other favourite is the slim black dude who sells tissues to trapped drivers at the 75 second pedestrian crossing outside Plaza De Armas. I remember him from my first visit. Every day he wears a different outrageous, spotless outfit, nurse, nun, beach bunny, Fred Astair, pharoah, you name it he’s got it. Often with a matching wig. The other sellers look like sad beggars but he’s always upbeat, even holding an umbrella in the rain. I asked his permission today to take his photo.He grinned and nodded then posed. Ten minutes later I almost walked into him in the supermarket and he gave me another lovely smile. Made me cry.

La Macarena is a boho part of town. The weekly flea market attracts all sorts of people and their dogs and all kinds of merchandise. If you’re looking for second hand porn DVDs, priestly gold embroidered vestments, vinyl records, christening clothes, ruffled dresses, and used mobile phones you’ll find them there at a bargain price.

I’d happily come back to Seville again for the first two weeks of term at Manuel Betanzos’ academy if Andres Peña or his wife, Pilar Ogalla are teaching. The more bad Bulerias I see the more I appreciate their nuanced, intelligent style and to learn Bulerias and Abandolao from the very feminine, cheeky Pili was a golden opportunity.

I have to confess immodestly that I scored an ‘Eso es’ from Pili after we’d drilled one section of the Abandolao footwork. She’d watched me closely, looked me right in the eye afterwards and quietly said those magic words every dancer wants to hear, ‘That’s it’. I have no intention of ever inflicting my dancing on an audience but I get a huge thrill every time I conquer, if only fleetingly, a complicated section of the choreography. What had seemed impossible to master at the beginning of the week becomes muscle memory and the soniquete is part of my grey matter. It won’t last of course but every time I attempt something similar it will be fifty percent easier and much more enjoyable.

Last night was my last chance to see flamenco and what a night it was, a tribute to La Paquera de Jerez by the Mendez Family at Peña Torres Macarena. We had inspired amateurs and revered masters sharing the stage and the show went on for two and a half hours topped off by Carmen Ledesma dancing in the fin de fiesta in her trakky daks. I think that will tide me over for the next few weeks back in the French Alps where the rain is snow!

¡Hasta luego Sevilla!

Excellent shop and really is 24/7/365

Calle Bailen

Sol por fin! Con mi buen amiga Vanessa en Triana. We had just drunk four glasses of champagne and were slightly happy

Almudena Serrano at Pena Torres Macarena

My alternate breakfast haunt in Mercado Triana – I sit under under the black bull

Lunch in the sunshine Calle Betis

Shops are getting ready for Feria

Exactly what it says- Alameda

Friday 4pm and it was going off in Plaza Salvador. In Australia we break the law drinking in public, here it would be social suicide not to

Best value ticket ever!

View of neighbour’s house from my top terrace. Cool huh?!

La Macarena flea market

Only the persistent get a drink in interval at Pena Torres Macarena

Simple time saving solution- number the kinds of bread! Hercules Cafe

Best salesman in Seville waiting for the cars to stop at the red light

Familia Mendez


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