Flamenco: The Blues of Spain in Calgary

by Paul Verhaegh

Performance seen 14 February 2018, Junction Stage and Lounge, 628-8 Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta:

Flamenco Calgary Presented ‘Flamenco Tablao’, an intimate Flamenco performance of song, music and dance. Photo by Paul Verhaegh.

‘Flamenco Calgary Presents: Flamenco Tablao, an intimate Flamenco performance of song, music and dance bringing together Salero Caló’s original members. Back from Seville for the Christmas holidays, Annette Morcos (La Mora), founder of Salero Caló, will be joining them on stage for the first time since 2014. The group will also be joined by Silvia Te on song.’

By the time I contacted Annette Morcos for an interview, she was already back in Sevilla, Spain, where she lives. She was travelling to Calgary to visit her family (well, let’s say her actual family, because the Salero Caló company has become almost family to her).

“Good venues are hard to find in Calgary,” says Annette. “We used to be at The Beatnik, later became Wine-Oh’s, which was our home base until they closed.”

Well, the opening night on February 14 showed that Junction seems to have the right intimacy for flamenco.

“Flamenco may come from Spain, but that doesn’t mean there are Spanish people involved. What did happen in Spain was that different cultures came together in Andalusia: Gypsies who came from Northern India, the Moors; and another part comes from sefardic Jews.”

How does Annette fit into this mix: Mediterranean background, not from Spain, but mixed European-Arab she says, without becoming more specific. But why would one want to be more specific? She has it all.

“The root of Flamenco goes back to the 1500’s when the Gypsies moved in. As a performing art it emerged in the late 1700’s (and) early 1800’s, when it came out of people’s homes into the public space like bars.

“Flamenco is the blues of Spain,” says Annette. “It started with people lamenting their sorrows: feeling sorry for themselves, communicating how they feel . . . It may have started with lamenting, but during the performance you will notice every piece ends with something happy, which expresses that there is hope.”

Flamenco has two faces: it is the blues of Spain, but because of the interaction that happens on stage, it is very jazzy. In jazz you can improvise a lot. Flamenco used to be more improvisational: it wasn’t as choreographed the way it is now on stage.

“In its expression you see another distinction. The movement of the upper body is very European: It is controlled like that of a ballet dancer. The lower part of the body moves more like in African and Indian dancing. Imagine that the dancers dance while wearing bells on their feet, like in the Punjab in India: it is like a split personality.“

Flamenco’s tradition of learning is through imitation. How did she learn it?

“It was the singing that got my soul first, and then . . . dance!” Photo by Paul Verhaegh.

“If you appreciate the singing, then you know where you are going. For me it was the singing that got my soul first and then everything else . . . Jam sessions are more like a juerga flamenca , it is more spontaneous. Imagine that you are invited to a family event in Andalusia: people are sitting; they are drinking; someone picks up a guitar and starts playing. Then somebody starts dancing. It is not choreographed: you don’t know what’s gonna happen; it is more spontaneous. Everybody will participate.”

And those who would like to get into flamenco? She recommends that you Approach members of the group after a performance, or visit their website.

Flamenco Tablao II: Junction Stage & Bar, Saturday March 10, 2018. For more information and tickets visit flamenco calgary’s website.

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.