From the height of flamenco festivities to the grip of national lockdown and days of home confinement to creating online dance courses, my time in Spain has been an unexpected contrast of experiences this year.
I’ve been here in Seville since mid-February and in a short span of time, things in Spain changed greatly due to the global virus situation.
Stay Safe, Stay Home
We’re now going into the 4th week of the lockdown. Time has actually passed quite fast, surprisingly.
The idea of a lockdown can be daunting, and the number of cases in Spain sadly is very high, standing at a global number 2 even as I write.
Some of your countries entered a lockdown as early as Spain did, whereas some others I know are just recently going into that Stay-at-Home mode with many adjustments to make: working from home, transiting to home-based learning as schools close. Retail and F&B businesses are also in hibernation.
I’m sharing this background here, as not all my students or friends have been updated. I wanted to assure everyone I’m keeping well in Spain. For those who inquired about me, gracias, thanks for your thoughts 🙂
New Ways Of Learning – Online Dance Courses
So I have not been conducting physical classes while I am away from Singapore. Also, I am not sure when I can return yet, due to the lockdown in Spain with no flights home-bound.
However, by coincidence, I do have a new series of Flamenco and Classical Spanish online dance courses I have started up with my artists. These ‘Created-in-Spain’ courses, while not conceived under these circumstances, are born (launched) during these times. So in case you are looking for a way to continue your classes, you can consider them.
Pre-lockdown Days, Spain
Back-tracking a bit: I was in Jerez for three weeks – the first week was to observe the International FlamencoCompetition that my maestro Manuel Betanzos co-directs, hosted by the Jerez Flamenco Festival. It was an amazingly fruitful experience to observe the action close-up: the talented candidates in flamenco improvisation mode (where you have no chance to rehearse, but call up your skills and experience performing with the singers & guitarists).
The following two weeks, this small Southern-Spanish town was abuzz with the Flamenco Festival.
For those of you who may not have gotten to know it yet, typically, it’s two weeks of packed flamenco dance, song, music action – from workshops taking place simultaneously across three time slots a day, to a smorgasbord of shows at 7pm, 9pm, midnight, 1am too! Only in Spain do you get such late-night flamenco shows.
As you can imagine, it’s intense, bustling and palpable with activities and excitement. I’ve always said you need stamina to ‘run’ this sort of flamenco marathon. The only way I can get sufficient sleep is not to sign up for any morning workshops!
Behind-the-scenes, The Maestros Going Online
The festival culminated on Saturday night, 7th March. But for my team of artists and I, Sunday was to be a full day of film recordings for a new project.
This is MAESTROS Flamenco Online, involving three wonderful artists: Manuel Betanzos (dance) from Seville, and Manu Soto (song), Javier Ibañez (guitar) both from Jerez.
I headed back to Seville with Manuel that Sunday. With barely much sleep the night before, I psyched myself to wake up at 6am, an unearthly hour to many of us working in the arts! We had to drive from Jerez to Sevilla in Manuel’s car and get to his academy in Triana, where our team of videographers met us at 10am.
Amazingly, we got through that whole day of full mental concentration, finishing in the late evening. It was exciting to see the online learning material being demonstrated and taught by the three artists: flamenco improvisation, with codes ‘decoded’ in each of the dance, song, guitar courses we recorded.
The guys have very distinctive personalities too, so that was fun to see. When we work with wonderful, dedicated and sincere people with similar work values, it greatly warms the heart and gives meaning to what we do.
Looking back, it was serendipitous that we got to record all of this before the Spanish lockdown, prohibiting people from going out.
A Very Different Kind Of Spain
In the following days to come, this country would be shaken.
The highs and excitement of the Festival de Jerez, would contrast the street-silence shrouding the whole of Spain….
Signing off for today, friends. It’s 9.30pm now, and it’s time to help Manuel prepare dinner, late Spanish time, of course. The menu is Cola de Toro (Oxtail stew).
Warmest thoughts from Seville,
PS. In my next sharing, you’ll get a glimpse of a different kind of Spain, as the country announced its swift lockdown. Dance academies had just about a day’s notice to shut down. The domino impact on everyone was beginning, fast.
PPS. I’d also love to share more about the two new ‘created-in-Spain’ projects – online dance courses I’ve been working on with my team of Spanish artists. If you would like to zoom into them in the meantime, then you can click to the two sites:
Maestros Flamenco Online – (Learn communication for live, improvisational accompaniment)
Maestros Danza Española – (Learn Classical Spanish Dance & castanets).
It all keeps me going, stimulated by the new things I learn and the sense of mission I now have. I guess that’s making my home-quarantine in Spain fruitful.