Review: a hot night in Seville with Simon el Rubio's flamenco puro group

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Diary of a Hot Night in Seville

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This show took place during a hot night in Seville with 10 performers to a select private audience.

simon el rubio flamenco puro group - jessica dancing por solea - please ask permission if you wish to download copyright photos fotos: Borja Luque

the gathering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone converged on the carport of our country house. We live just outside Jerez in typical andalusian countryside around olive trees, cactus and farmland. It was still hot in late afternoon and when the group settled, we were able to discuss the order of dances and the situation of the performance.

The two guitarists, Pepe and Lalo, were among the few accompanists to dance whom I specially admired. They could pick up the immediate sublety that I wanted as a dancer. But I wanted the evening to run as if it were never choreographed. Del tirón they would confirm, an impromptu and spontaneous series of dances, blended with spicey flamenco song.

These flamencos are supreme performers, born into it as it were, though I do not believe anything can be performed well without years of discipline and experience in the art. (see It's in the Blood.) In fact you will find that most groups will not actually rehearse a show as such. This may be surprising to outsiders, used to the philosophy of the rehearsal, but in flamenco, all the hard work is done when you are younger - the training is so long that when you eventually take to performing you are secure about your own material. The compás has become second nature, and the combination of heat and slothfullness ensures that there is no need to rehearse! (This is of course different to flamenco for the theatre.)

the streets of seville

 

 

 

 

Tonight we had to drive to Seville. The better road was the autopista which carried a toll charge (only 690,- pesetas) but it made sure we arrived early. Time passed quickly listening to an early Camarón tape in the car. Jaime sat next to me with two girls in the back, chattering away in andalu'.

It was when we got to Seville that we got stuck. We snaked around the centre for half an hour trying to get closer to the venue behind La Giralda. The small streets were often one way and eventually one flamenco suggested paying a Seville taxi driver to put us out of our misery.

However I improvised and got the other two cars to find their own parking. It would be easier to walk. Since it was early evening I took a chance down a no-entry street to get to the door of the venue (I had no idea how to get there otherwise.)

the trousers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaime, an excellent young Jerezano singer, was in good spirits, singing as he went along. When everyone eventually found the room set aside for changing, Jaime was in his underpants searching frantically for his suit trousers. I cannot forget his knobbly knees quivering as he pulled on his jeans and rushed off down the road in search of them. They had slipped out of the coathanger as he carried them secluded in the dry cleaners' plastic.

His anguish was to repeat throughout the evening, since three of us on separate occasions exclaimed a sighting of cloth or a jacket in the gutter. For the show, Jaime was forced to wear his suit jacket over his dirty jeans.

"Simón, picha..." he said, "you will explain to the organiser that I did have my suit and that...."

"Tranquillo" I stopped him, as others around just smiled with more experience.

They will not notice, I muttered under my breath, as we all know the singer in this type of show takes the back row. It is for the most part true that foreigners will be more interested by the dance and guitar playing than the song. Of course he was a proud singer and I respected his youthful seriousness. For him it was an important performance. He was paid a good fee and he felt the need to present himself well. I admired that and secretly thought I would compensate him after the show for the loss of his trousers. But I need not have worried as events took a curious turn.

 

the show

 

 

simon el rubio flamenco puro group in sevilla

 

 

 

 

I wanted the show to be varied and light-hearted, as was my brief, with lots of energy and a display of castanet playing. The guests were given presents of castanets so we had to dance one number at least with palillos. (Castanets are not strictly flamenco, but clasico-español - more appropriate to Spanish ballet.)

We opened with Sevillanas, a traditional crowd-pleaser, and clicked our way around the tables to get on stage. It was a hot night and the exquisite meal had left everyone pregnant with anticipation. Then the serious stuff of performing began.

We had solos prepared, but they never really went as planned, so you get used to improvising... Paqui por alegrías, Simón por farruca ending with the spectacular stick sequence, Carmen and her gypsy soléa por bulería, Jessica also por soleá with a long and tense beginning to keep you on the edge of your seat, and finally a fin de fiesta when all let loose in a frenzied bulería, the fastest rhythm in flamenco. Even the palmero, Gabriel, jumped up on stage to stamp his imprint on the world, while Daniel frantically beat the cajón.

The pots and pans behind us gleamed in the yellow light. We were having such fun that by this time the audience were definitely needing more brandies, but the waiters and Don Raimundo himself, just stood there watching the spectacle we had provided. One lady stood up and clapped furiously but we thought she would fall down. There was no room on the stage. All this foot stamping meant more energy for them, but to us less art. Such is the consequence of a tablao type of performance, but it did not matter, as we had been allowed our chance to impress with a solo.

the girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fashion flamenco

The four girls dressed in different colours and costume styles, all individual and eye-catching. Silvia, the young Sevillana had an apron in gypsy style, while Jessica went totally white with a mantón that occasionally tied itself to her hair, quickly released with a sudden flick of the head so characteristic of an arrogant torero. You could feel the pride and passion of flamenco's heritage in her every limb. Carmen was just pure dark gypsy and though very young, had impeccable footwork. Paqui was very elegant, tall and slim in what could have been a fashionable black evening gown of polka dots and white neckscarf. Simón, all in black and a hint of red on the back of his chaleco, wore the spotty headscarf so reminiscent of a 19th century flamenco brigand. A real batch of individuals and all artists in their own right, ¡ flamenco por derecho ! None of this ballet style formation dancing, that you see so often see now in theatres purporting to pass off as flamenco.

flamenco por derecho

the public

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it is really gratifying to hear applause. It is like a vindication of your whole life to that point, not just pat on the back for a single dance step or a single melody. It is after all the last performance of your life, until the next one.... I mean that it has a finality, so that it has to be good. You have to give everything to make it work, to tell your story, to pull the onlookers into your world and make them feel this special moment.

The whole flamenco spectacle of guitar, song, dance, percussion are the tools of your trade at the service of your artistic expression, but it is your personality outwardly and your essence inwardly that is on line. You are indeed baring your soul, and your public usually responds to this subconscious calling. Flamenco does have a morbid finality, but the public want to be entertained, though what they get is something much more profound. That is why the applause for a flamenco solo sends goose pimples down my back almost every time!

the discovery

 

 

 

 

Content "A Hot Night in Seville" and photographs © Simon Zolan

As we left the baroque and dimly lit dining rooms into an equally subdued street outside, the sweet scent of the night heralded another pleasant surprise. To our amusement, Lalo triumphantly brandished Jaime's trousers in the air! He had found them a few streets away - nobody had taken them after all from the gutter. He was so grateful that he proclaimed he would buy everyone a round of drinks to celebrate.

The return journey was not such fun for me. I heard a crack and the rear window just shattered as we sped onto the motorway. My crew got into the next car in convoy and I suffered alone the cool night air back to Jerez de la Frontera. I did not mind. We had had such an entertaining evening.

 

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