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Pedro Córdoba (right) and Carmen González (left) dance a live Flamenco at Casa Patas in Madrid, Spain.
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"Carmen" dancers. Photo from Ballet Flamenco Madrid.
Flamenco, a popular form of song, dance and music that originated in the southern region of Spain, Andalucía, is a part of the Spanish culture you can't help but love. It's not hip hop, it's not pop nor is it Broadway, it's pure theatricality melded into a classy jam session. Or at least that is how I tend to think of it. 

Since I have been in Spain I have seen three very different flamencos, each equally elegant and full of life. The first was "Carmen", a theatrical rendition placed in Seville in the year 1830 where one gypsy, Carmen, uses her beauty to seduce three different men and eventually all four turn against one another. The show lent itself to a more dramatic performance that had more of a mix of dance and acting than the other two. Being the first flamenco I had seen I was enthralled. The colorful layers of the dress, the red lipstick carefully applied to the dancer's lips, and the men who move carelessly around the women all were something new to take in. It brought me back to the days when I danced and made me miss it. The dancers moved, stomped, clapped with assurance that was inspiring and set high expectations for the next flamenco at Casa Patas Flamenco en Vivo

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Pedro Córdoba dances a serious flamenco at Casa Patas.
Casa Patas had a different vibe, a smaller stage with tables and chairs compared to Carmen's theatre. Our group sat in the front row and sipped on sangria while Carmen González and Pedro Córdoba, stomped, clapped, swirled and moved aggressively but somehow daintily at the same time. González's dress was all black, the only color visible was from her red lipstick. The mood was low-key, you could tell it was their job but they had fun doing it. Here the singers sang from their heart and did improv, taking turns at making jokes and egging the singer on. The guitarists enjoyed the quarrels between the singers and strummed the guitars with passion. A solo performance during the intermission kept the music and ambiance flowing.  It was a lighthearted and enjoyable performance with some serious kick to it, no pun intended.  

The next flamenco we would go to would turn out to be the most enjoyable so far, even if I couldn't see the stage. It was after a long day of sightseeing in Granada at Jardines de Zoraya. Two singers, two dancers, a drummer and two guitarists crowded the small stage and the beautiful thing about it was they all had smiles on their faces that exemplified their enthusiasm. They began with a song featuring the guitarist and drummer and up next came the young female dancer, dressed in black but per usual the red lipstick popped and her earrings added more color. She clapped her hands then twirled them together near the center of her chest before spreading them outwards and then above her head. Towards the end she moved back to her chair but remained standing as she danced in place for a few moments. She took a bow and soon the man took his turn. The atmosphere was more relaxed and you could visibly tell the performers did this for joy and referred the lively music compared to the previous Flamenco's serious tones. One woman who sat in the front row tapping her foot and clapping while also nodding to the beat. She had a look of approval as she stared at the male dancer's feet which were moving like a high speed pendulum. I'm going to take a stab at her past and say she was a great flamenco dancer growing up but somewhere along the way she found a new calling and lives vicariously through young dancers. The entire performance flew by in what felt like a matter of minutes though it lasted about an hour. The groups consensus was that the performance at Jardines de Zoraya was the best of all three. They danced with their heart and appeared to have the most fun doing it, all we need to be like them is a life of flamenco lessons and a miracle. Though that still may not help me.

Videos of the flamenco dancers at Jardines de Zoraya

 
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Guernica by Pablo Picasso in Museo Reina Sofía. Credit picasso.com
Warning to all readers: I love gallery assistants, but do they really have to hate on me trying to actually prove I saw something amazing? The following are my sentiments towards a fashionable gallery assistant at El Museo Reina Sofía.

Dear Museum Man: 

Here's my beef I have with you.

Number one, you are never smiling. My question is why? You get to stare at gorgeous pieces of art all day, that sounds like a great time to me. You are even provided a chair to sit on if your legs get tired, life can't get better. 

Secondly, you and your co-workers all wear the same black-on-black outfits and stick out like sore thumbs against the museums white walls. Why can't you get all jazzed up and match the intellect and jaw dropping art that you stand by all day? Don't pretend like I didn't see those Italian leather dress shoes you had on along with that tailored blazer.  Share your wardrobe with Joan Miró and Juan Gris, because Mr. Museum Man, you've got style for a gallery assistant. 

Lastly and most importantly, why must you yell at me from across the room when I am taking a picture while others are interpreting a piece in silence? There was no sign to say I couldn't take a photo, there were actually signs that said I could take a photo as long as it didn't use a flash - and I made sure I turned my flash off. 
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Gallery assistant saw me taking a photo of this Picasso.
I'll be sure not to bother you next time if you politely tap me on the shoulder and explain this room is off-limits. No one responds to yelling, no matter how cute your shoes are. Well, maybe if you had the really cute Kate Spade Nadira flats I would respond… But that's besides the point. 

On a happier note, I am pleased you allowed me to stay in the museum and look at the remaining Pablo Picasso paintings, including the one and only Guernica. If you had not allowed me, and the other student who took a photo as well, to stay we would have been greatly disappointed due to the fact that I could stare at this painting for hours. 

Enough about my "beef" with the gallery assistant. For those who know me you will know I really don't mind that much, he was just doing his job. I am actually slightly jealous of his occupation. 

The other night one of the guys in the group asked us all this question: What job would you have if you knew you couldn't mess up? I immediately said art restoration. 

My dad would be proud with this answer, my mom would jerk her head back, crinkle her nose and say, huh? But it is the honest to goodness truth. 

You would have the talent to restore pieces of work that have been seen by thousands, if not millions of people depending upon the painting. You recreate the brush strokes someone put on a canvas years ago, you remove surface deposits via cotton swab and it makes you wonder how vibrant the color was when it was first created. Just think if you had the task of restoring Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas it would be time consuming and make your hands shake, but the satisfaction of fixing a splotch of color and no one being able to notice, how awesome and rewarding would that be? I would love to say one day, "Hey you know La Infanta Margarita in that one really famous painting Las Meninas? Yeah, I made her white dress a little more white." OK, maybe I wouldn't tell people like that but you get my drift. 

Personally, I think Mr. Museum Man wants this job too. After all, he does need to fund his wardrobe. 

In summary, I thank you dear Museum Man, you made me recount my trip to Museo Reina Sofía countless times, engrained into my memory that I should not take photos in a gallery - regardless of the signs - and helped me dream a little dream about having a job in art restoration. 

Yours truly, 
Andrea Anderson