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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