Steam rolling through Week One, Festival de Jerez, Spain

23 Feb

Festival de Jerez for me is like an old-fashioned steam freight train. You load your goods on board, wait for it to get up a head of steam then jump on for the ride. Or get the hell out of the way ’cause it will mow you down.

Bringing the goods this week have been maestro supremo Manuel Betanzos with his high voltage Tangos de Malaga choreography. I thought I had half an idea of tangos, I’ve done a few. Nope, not this one. PITti ta PITti ta PAM PAH! PITti ta PITti ta PAM PA! And on and on relentlessly at a hundred miles an hour. Hanging on by my fingernails folks. Without quiet studio time before class to muddle through and develop some muscle memory I would have bailed. And this is basico!


I need a post-class fino to calm me down..
Main stage Villamarta shows have been magnificent with one obvious exception. Here I am going to diss one of the ‘greats’ of the flamenco scene and a much loved son of Jerez, Antonio del Pipa. 

Having seen him live several times I knew his show wouldn’t float my boat but the ticket was included in my festival package so I rationalised it would be petty not to go when there are other artists on stage with him that I knew I would enjoy. Sadly, that was not enough. I felt sorry for the eight lovely young bailarinas who had to dance his choreography and the rest of the artists who had to watch his bloated ego emote on stage for an hour. Three quarters of the way through I saw my opportunity to bolt and I was out of there! I was not the only one. 

More than my own disappointment at a wasted hour of my life it is a crying shame that an opportunity for rising or established artists to shine in that slot didn’t get it because no one has the guts to tell Antonio del Pipa he no longer deserves it.

The other Villamarta shows, Eva Yerbabuena, Ana Morales with David Coria and last night Marco Flores and co, were all brilliantly inventive, entertaining, provocative, and moving. Exceptional talent on display. 

 Full cast and collaborators from Marco’s show take their bows to a full house standing ovation.
Other flamenco ‘off festival’ that deserves mention is Macarena Ramirez’ show at Guarida del Angel. This child prodigy has matured into an astonishing performer and still only 24. Dressed like a drag queen with the face of a kewpie doll Macarena is unique. She wowed us with a solid 90 minute show and received a enthusiastic audience response from the jampacked venue. It will be interesting to see if she develops along the lines of a Rocio Molina once she has said everything she wants to say with traditional flamenco.

Tonight is the return of the dynamic due, Pilar Ogalla and Andres Peña. This is Pili’s first new main stage work with Andres post-baby. Tonight will be huge for them both.

On the social side nearly all my favourite flamenco people are here and I’ve been able to put a few faces to names I’ve known for some time but never been fortunate to meet. The reunions have been special, hearing about exciting things that have happened for people. Not everything is on facebook ;-))

If the weather continues sunny and mild I might just have to say that this 20th Festival has been the best ride yet!
These are a few snaps of our apartment and around town. ¡Disfrutarlo! 

 Sunday morning churros and coffee ritual of the natives. 
 Yes, this is our palace, Palacio Torneria. 

 Flatmate Suzanne taking some quiet time before the whirlwind starts again. 
 The photographic exhibition by Juan Saludo in Plaza Arenal captures magical rehearsal moments in past Villamarta shows. Here we have Marco Flores and Jose Maldonado. 

 And Ursula Lopez. 

 Alcazar flea market. 

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