‘Only in Jerez’ moments and dance gold from maestro Manuel

27 Feb

Ducking into a bar in my post-class world of pain and sweat for a steadying fino sherry I stumble into angelic singer Ezequiel Benitez. So tongue-tied I just grin stupidly. One of many ‘Only in Jerez moments’.

Gorgeous men walking around carrying guitars are matched in number by beautiful, intense, fast-walking women carrying shoulder bags of dance gear.

Palmas and cante break out spontaneously almost anywhere, including supermarkets.

Dancers practice their pataitas under the table in cafes and sometimes on your apartment ceiling.

Cafe napkins have flamenco motifs.

The closest pharmacist is a specialist in selling dressings to protect blistered feet.

An order of takeaway tapas is served in a clay pot you return the next day.

On any given day three festival events vie with at least that number of off-festival flamenco performances and you need never pay more than 18 euros for any of them.

Bumping into friends you haven’t seen for three years and picking up like you met just yesterday.

A stray dog sits outside and watches me through the classroom window howling in a minor key along with the Tangos de Malaga singer.

The same guitarist (Miguel Salado) who plays our dance music over and over again in class pops up on stage a few hours later to accompany one of the Jerez living legends of flamenco singing, Manuel Moneo.

I could go on and on….. 

 The dog’s view of the dance studio.

 Sandra Rincon and Miguel Salado in class with Maestro Manuel Betanzos. 

 Miguel playing for Manuel Moneo in La Guarida del Angel, Jerez. 

 Rocio Molina and company at curtain call, Villamarta Theatre. A provocative tour de force. As usual.

Instead I’ll finish with some dance notes I took from Manuel Betanzos this week that may be familiar to some of you. These are performance treasures:

“The music is inside. If you don’t feel the rhythm inside your chest you can’t dance.

Just listen to the music and respond naturally, when it is gentle be gentle, when it picks up you pick up the intensity.
Give the footwork light and shade, accents only where needed, don’t be heavy footed.

Breathe. Held breath creates tension in the muscles so you cannot move fluidly. 

If a jump is called for the jump does not elevate you, you stay close to the floor. Most of the time footwork is done as though you have a boulder on your head so keep level, don’t raise up and down with heel lifts.

Where choreography calls for precision, e.g. feet parallel and together on the balls of your feet, be absolutely rock strong in that position. Control your muscles.

Technique comes first, correct steps later. Be in compas then worry about intricate steps.

When you dance you are always in the dance, never drop your attitude. Whatever the dance calls for be that. And let the mood show on your face without exaggeration.

When you make a mistake cover and find a solution. Never just stop or fall apart.

Communicate with your musicians. Sometimes it is their moment, sometimes yours. When it is your moment to dance you need to drive the music. Be secure in what you choose to do.

Simple is best. In choreography things naturally follow so choose the more natural option whether it be use of the skirt, arms, hands. Don’t force something.”
Thank you Manuel, you are always an inspiration. ¿Y Jerez? ¡Hasta la proxima!  


  Tangos de Malaga


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