Falling on my feet in Madrid

19 Feb

My Madrid was greyhounds as pet of choice; people of all ages and both sexes smoking as if their lives depended on it; an octagenarian whispering ‘guapa’ as I pass; hard-faced jeans-clad middleaged sex workers on both corners of my street (calle de la Cruz); flamenco street art; pickpockets who steal not just from tourists but from flamenco students’ bags as they pretend to watch a dance class; free entry (on Monday afternoons) to view priceless works of art registered offshore. but on display in the new wing of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza courtesy of a widowed super rich, Spanish fourth wife; street musicians I would pay to see in concert; effete, highly groomed thin men with artfully arranged scarves, aviator sunglasses and handbag over the forearm tripping down the street; professional beggars; the smartly dressed teeny tiny 80-something woman who thanked me profusely for holding the door open for her to exit the bank and went on to grab my arm to tell me that, being young, I am the flower in her life (crikey, I’m 60 next year!), the confused American at the the Hammam de Andaluz who’s been told that even though it’s mixed bathing she doesn’t need to wear a swimsuit (oh, I saved her arse!), a random dude who saw me looking at flamenco posters in my street, said I need to go to Villa Rosa Tablao around the corner and took me there (no hereally doesn’t work there, I checked and yes, I will go there next visit, gotta leave a few things for next time); the fishmonger with the grey moustache who shouted a cheery ¡Buen dia! to me every day as I passed on the way to class (shame I had noone to buy fish for); monumental architecture and eclectic original design; watching a huge, silver bubble blown by the master bubblemaker in Plaza Mayor hang in the sunlight for a full ten seconds before a little kid kicked it; a formidable police presence, many toting automatic machine guns; and finally, the kindly cashier at the pharmacy who made it her mission to find exactly the right combination of plasters to rescue and protect my blistered toes.

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Past visits to Madrid have been for two days at the most, this, my fourth visit, I was on my own and had a whole six nights to indulge in my favourite things. And I stayed in relative luxury. I’d splurged a little on a four star, new studio serviced apartment (Apartamentos Blume Cruz) slap bang in the centre of flamenco venues, the flamenco studio and excellent shopping and cultural venues. Madrid treated me very well indeed.

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For the flamenco dancers among you who have not yet been to worship at the altar of Madrid flamenco training I will briefly describe Amor de Dios, the Centre of Flamenco Art and Spanish Dance (ADD to afficionados). The first thing to know is that it is inside a large fruit, veg and fish market. Yep, I walked right past, became confused and actually had to stop someone to ask their help finding it. And there it was! Now it makes total sense, two of my favourite things, a food market and flamenco.

Walk through automatic glass doors off Santa Isabel street, turn right past the fiften kinds of olives stand and go up one level to a vast floor of flamenco and multipurpose studios and change rooms. I got quite excited when I saw showers in the change room but then realised the water heater next to them had all the wires disconnected and repair work was going on in the far section of the room. Back to the wet wipes post class shower….

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On the advice of three awesome Aussie flamenco artists, Jessica Statham, Roshanne Wijeyeratne and Simone Pope,I went to straight to ADD the Saturday I arrived to check the noticeboard for the classes offered the coming week. There were so many! I settled on Lidon Patiño’s medio level technique class 10-11am Monday to Thursday. Rationale? She was young, had danced in Marco Flores’ productions (whom I really respect), had created a nice poster and the early start would get me prepared for my 10am classes at the Festival de Jerez next week. Done!

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There is no registration process as with other schools I’ve been to, you just show up, take the class and pay the teacher cash directly. In this case it was 40 euro for four classes. Great value. The management obviously take their cut from the teacher and he/she is assigned a studio on the basis of the number there on the day. We started the week with just four students but by Thursday we were eight and moved studio once. Works for me.

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View from studio 13.

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My morning walk to class.
Lidon proved to be a delight. Fresh, enthusiastic and funny but absolutely committed to getting the best from her students. She is short in stature but big in presence with that fabulous big hair I’ve always coveted. There is nothing radical in her approach, full body warmup, followed by footwork drilling, then two kinds of turns preceded by a small piece of setup footwork, followed by a choreographed alegria llamada she built upon each day. I felt the level was medio, maybe the lower end of medio. Lidon didn’t sing but kept us strictly in compas with palmas. She gave me corrections a couple of times which I absolutely needed and I managed to earn a much coveted ‘Eso es’ (‘That’s it’) by the third day. My fellow students were all young, Spanish speakers apart from an older woman from Kentucky who joined us on the second day. The woman was struggling with the basic steps but Lidon let her stay in the class. Well, it’s all income for Lidon. I heard some muttering in the change room amongst the young ones that they wanted more challenging steps but from what I could see they still had a way to go before they reached perfection.

Today we stitched the various pieces together and performed a creditable alegria letre. Lidon even took a few snaps for me so that I’d have something to show you here. I fully intend to come back to work with her again, hopefully for a longer period. She has really cleaned up my footwork. Sadly I’ll miss her show at Candela tomorrow night as I leave for Jerez early to join my posse of nine other flamencos. We all met and became friends through Simone’s Brisbane studio. We’re coming from many different directions but all feet will converge at the Festival de Jerez tomorrow night!

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I leave you with a treat, Lidon in action.

PS For Madrid flamenco reviews please see my flamenco review page for the four shows I saw. I include some of the photos here.

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‘Flamenco Backstage’

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Cardamomo Tablao

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Casa Patas Tablao

And some gratuitous shots of the wonderful fresh fruit and veg I’ve been eating this week!

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Hasta la proxima amigos, Sxx

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