Progress at a snail’s pace

12 Feb

A week in which I eat more than my fill of humble pie, with a relish of flamenco friendships. 

High on the success of the Tangos experience with Eduardo Guerrero and bolstered by four of Angel Atienzas’ exacting technique classes, I romped back into Manuel’s studio after a fun-filled weekend away with family and friends in Edinburgh. 

Manuel had been teaching in Italy and caught yet another cold but he seemed in good spirits.


I hadn’t paid much attention to what he was planning to teach. It was basico, it was Manuel, what could go wrong?


The first clue that I had erred came in the change room. I noticed some students pulling fans from their bags. ¿Que?


I asked a woman, “What’s with the fans?”


“It’s Caracoles”, she replied, as if that one word was explanation enough. Oh, oh….the penny was dropping with a clang. Caracoles (literal translation ‘snail’)=Pericón.

Abanico is the term used for the smallish fan people use to cool themselves or to compliment a feria dress, while pericón is the term for the usually larger fan used by dancers to add an interesting, flirtatious, yet stylish element to their choreography and to emphasise the beat. Manuel was teaching Caracoles with pericón and I was pericón-less. A sweet Japanese student (who also happens to be a famous actress but I won’t blow her cover by telling you who she is) loaned me her spare fan, I sucked it up and walked into a lesson in humility.


I generally avoid flamenco props apart from the bata de cola (long-tailed skirt) which I love because of its elegance. I almost strangled myself once with the fringe of a manton (shawl) in La Chica’s workshop. Bloody hell, I have enough trouble “dominando” my body parts let alone complicating movements by adding further degrees of difficulty. And I’d already missed two classes because of the Edinburgh travel time.

Now I had a new palo (rhythm) plus a prop to contend with. It’s easy enough for Manuel to dance as though “the fan is an extension of your arm”. Within ten minutes I’d wacked the wall twice (better than hitting a neighbour) and flung the fan half way across the room. Luckily it didn’t clobber anyone or break. I got through the class somehow then went straight to Candela (flamenco store) to buy two fans. Most evenings I can be found sitting on my couch watching reruns of CSI (dubbed into Spanish) flicking a fan in each hand. Open, shut, open shut, followed by figure of eight wrist flourishes until it hurts.

One of my kind classmates demonstrating a new step.
Because there’s quite a bit of fan faffing the class is not tiring. Even after my hour of studio practice – involving a review of tangos and caracoles, bata de cola practice and yoga – I have energy to burn so have added an evening bulerias class back at A Dos. 

The teacher is vivacious Irene “La Siento”. Italian-born Irene has been based in Seville for over twenty years and is well established in the professional scene. She sings and has a lively, light, feminine style with some wicked remates. One is especially complicated. Try this one: golpe derecho, tacon izquierda, golpe derecho, plantar-tacon izquierda, doble golpe derecho, talon izquierda, plantar-tacon izquierda, doble golpe derecho y levanta izquierda durante el golpe segundo con una media vuelta. All in two blinks of an eye…. Out of twenty attempts I managed to enter correctly and complete in time just once. Thank god both Irene and the guitarist saw it so they know I’m not a lost cause. 

Irene in motion. Unusually she lets us video her. So generous.
But it’s not all work, Cathy invited Sugika and me along to watch her classmates from Fundacion Cristina Heeren in their student-organised show at a community centre in La Macarena. Three very different, talented dancers, a lovely tenor singer and the same cheeky guitarist from La Señora Pop show. All for four euros with super comfy armchairs, one euro drinks plus a hugely entertaining fin de fiesta.Coral Moreno dancing, Jesus Rodriguez playing guitar and Carlos Guillen singing.Souzana Volioti dancing above and Beatriz Higueras below.

This weekend flamenco friend Suzanne arrived in Seville and Cathy celebrated her birthday at T de Triana, a fun way to finish the week. You may be wondering if my alcohol abstinence continues. Yep, 100%. No booze for five weeks. I don’t even think about it now. It’s true that if you manage to change a habit for a month it sticks. Maybe if I was a bloke I might get more peer pressure to drink, I certainly don’t feel like I need alcohol to feel part of the fiesta and I like waking up clear headed and with a lowered cancer risk, especially breast cancer.

Interesting fact: Most wines and beers are ‘fined’ with animal products – usually fish bladders or egg shells. Isn’t that crazy? There are a few vegan wines and beers but it’s rare to find them in Spain.


A couple of vignettes from this grey, drizzly weekend. I cycled to Parque Maria Luisa today for breakfast noticing all the oranges that wind and rain had shaken from the trees niw being squashed by vehicles.  No one ever collects the oranges for making marmalade, they are purely decorative, but the waiters at the park cafe pass the quiet times by playing catch behind the bar with them.

And those gypsy women who try to ply you with rosemary sprigs and read your palm? I saw what one of them does with the coins she cons from tourists. She walked into the same bar, demanded a glass of water, drank it, then went straight to the poker machine. She fed her entire stash of coins into the slot with her right hand while her left hand pressed the buttons. It took three minutes. She won nothing and walked out again without a word.

Postscript: The day after I published this I saw a waiter up a ladder collecting oranges and passing them to a neighbour who collected a big plastic bag full. Then today, the first sunny day for a while, I cycled past council workers collecting large bucketfuls on calle Betis. That’s a lot of marmalade!

Thanks for visiting – fan dancer selfie.

2 Responses to “Progress at a snail’s pace”

  1. heatherwattblog February 13, 2017 at 9:06 am #

    See you there with Charles and Anne so does that mean you are back in England?

    • Sharon Tickle February 13, 2017 at 11:40 am #

      No Heather, just in Edinburgh for the rugby weekend. In Spain another month! How are u both travelling? Sxx

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