Home Madrid language schools We take a break at the Amor de Dios flamenco center in Madrid: NPR

We take a break at the Amor de Dios flamenco center in Madrid: NPR

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, you know that we couldn’t leave Madrid without having a little fun. So we want to tell you about a really special experience we had during our stay here.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: If you recognize this rhythm, you will know that I am talking about the famous art of flamenco. And – try not to be jealous – we got to watch and even learn a bit at Madrid‘s legendary flamenco school, Amor De Dios. The studio is a cultural icon in Spain and dancers from all over the world take classes there.

CARMEN RIVAS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTIN: This is Carmen Rivas, also known as Carmen la Talegona, a renowned flamenco dancer and teacher here. We were lucky enough to join Carmen and her students as they rehearsed one last time before their class’ graduation presentation later this week.

RIVAS: (non-English language spoken).

MARTIN: Let me say that was a lot to take in, so we thought it would be fun to debrief as a group. For this I am joined by the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED team here in Madrid – Miguel Macias, Tinbete Ermyas and Kira Wakeam. Kira, Tinbete, Miguel, hello.

TINBETE ERMYAS, BYLINE: Hi.

KIRA WAKEAM, BY LINE: Hello, Michel.

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: Hello, Michel.

MARTIN: So, Miguel, I’ll start with you. You are from Spain and you organized our visit to the studio. Could you tell us a bit more about why seeing a course like this is so special?

MACIAS: Well, first of all, we entered this class because a good friend of mine, my best friend in Spain, is a student. So that was special access that we had. And even when you see flamenco, you sit in a room. And it’s beautiful, and it’s wonderful. It’s an emotional experience, but it’s very refined. In this case, we walked into this hot classroom – it was a hot day. They were students preparing their showcase, their final showcase, as you said before. The emotions were so strong. They were very focused. They were very focused. And you could see the actual process of editing the show, understanding how the stages are created.

(SOUNDBITE OF STOMPIING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

MACIAS: You might also see errors, which you don’t usually see on a professional show. So that’s what made it so unique and such a special experience.

MARTIN: What stood out to you? What do you think is the thing that touched you the most?

MACIAS: Growing up in southern Spain, flamenco was everywhere. But in my house, in fact, my parents didn’t really play flamenco. Fun fact about me – I got into flamenco when I emigrated to the United States. At some point in my life I started buying all kinds of flamenco towns. I have quite a collection. So it became a very personal way for me to connect with my homeland, which I think often happens to migrants. So when the teacher started singing – which she wasn’t supposed to, because they have a professional band for their performance, but in this case they weren’t there; they couldn’t be there. The teacher started singing, and for me, I felt so (inaudible), so emotional. It’s just like – I choked.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Singing in a language other than English).

MACIAS: It really touched me how everything happened in such a pure and artistic way in front of us.

MARTIN: Tinbete, and you? Was it the first time you saw flamenco?

ERMYAS: Yes, it was the first time I saw flamenco. And I should start by saying that I didn’t know much about it before going to this studio. I mean, I use the flamenco emoji a lot in group chats, for example, because I’m fabulous. But I didn’t know much about it as an art form. I didn’t know much about it as a cultural practice. And one of the things that I noticed when we were in the studio watching the dancers practice was just how visual the story is. You see it on the face. You see it in the eyes.

And another thing that struck me was, I mean, when you walk in, there’s these beautiful images of, like – I mean, people who were at the top of this craft. And they wear different kinds of uniforms and outfits. And you can say that the students – I mean, there’s really this energy that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. They’re into this really intense, really powerful art form that’s very much tied to Spanish culture. And you can – kind of feel like they’re trying to be part of a tradition that’s not just bigger than themselves, but really part of this culture in this country.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: Kira, you were able to get closer to Carmen and the students because you were recording all the time. So what stood out to you?

WAKEAM: So yeah – very, very close to the students, they were very nice and let me get close to them while they were dancing. And you know, Michel, that I am a fashion lover, a clothes lover. So, one of the first things that struck me was these amazing skirts, these traditional skirts that students wore called Bata de Cola, which directly translates to a tail coat. And those are kind of the long, heavy skirts that you’ve seen on flamenco dancers flowing and moving as they dance. And Carmen actually told us that not just anyone can wear them.

RIVAS: (non-English language spoken).

WAKEAM: You can’t just put on a Bata de Cola. You have to learn it. And, really, you can tell because there’s so much skill involved when they kick their feet up and turn around and wag their tails like a fish. And it’s really amazing to see them and to move with them. And it was so amazing to watch.

MARTIN: Okay, Kira, tell the truth. Did you want one?

WAKEAM: Of course. You know it (laughs).

MACIAS: OK, Michel, it’s your turn. I saw you very attentive on Friday. What made this experience so special for you?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, I had my own flamenco lesson with Carmen.

RIVAS: (non-English language spoken).

MARTIN: Yes. It’s definitely not easy, although I knew that because, you know, I love dancing. I used to, you know, study dance like a lot of little girls, but I actually studied different forms of dance all through college and actually, you know, for a few years after . And I’ve seen it many times, but I’ve never been so close to it. And it wasn’t until I saw the repeat that I kind of realized that one of the things I love about it is how it incorporates so many art forms from whole world. I mean, it’s – you know, you see a kind of emotion from opera, like, Tinbete, you were saying, the emotion you have in the history of opera. But you see, like, the precision that you see in classical dances from other traditions, like, you know, Hindu classical dance or Indian classical finger and eye dance. Every part of the body does something important.

But, you know, I have to say, it reminded me of our own step and tap…

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: …Because you have this kind of fierce percussion, rhythm. Everything comes from you, from your body, from the hands, from the tap. And it was, you know, very comfortable if you’ve ever seen a step show in a – especially an HBCU step show. Then you will see what I say. It’s just like – it must be very tight. And I asked Carmen about it. I asked him because it was – even though it was very classic, it was very contemporary. So I asked Carmen what kind of dance inspired her.

RIVAS: (non-English language spoken).

MARTIN: And she said that apart from flamenco masters, she’s inspired by African dance, hip-hop, tap dancing. Each type of dance influenced his choreography. And she told us that flamenco is gaining popularity all over the world.

RIVAS: (non-English language spoken).

WAKEAM: Michel, I thought that was very interesting too, because Carmen said that because of things like YouTube and Instagram, more and more people have access to flamenco in a way that they don’t. didn’t really have before. And funnily enough, I have a friend in DC who dances flamenco. And when I told her about our experience, she told me she knew Carmen because she followed her on social media.

MARTIN: So we can follow along and hopefully get more lessons. It was awesome. Well, thank you all for sharing your thoughts, for joining me on this journey. It was Kira Wakeam, Tinbete Ermyas and Miguel Macias. Miguel, special thanks to you for arranging this wonderful tour. We were all part of the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED team here in Madrid. Farewell.

WAKEAM: Goodbye.

ERMYAS: Goodbye.

MACIAS: Goodbye.

(MUSIC SOUND EXTRACTION)

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