Flamenco: The Blues of Spain in Calgary

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

Group of male and female dancers sitting on chairs onstage.
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.

A female Flamenco dancer onstage, one arm raised.
“It was the singing that got my soul first, and then . . . ” dance! Photo by Paul Verhaegh.

“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.“

Female dancer  standing,in red, arms raised with palms upward.
“It was the singing that got my soul first, and then . . . dance!” Photo by Paul Verhaegh.

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

“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.

Posted by Carey Rutherford

Author: Paul Verhaegh

Music is oxygen for the soul. And there is so much music out there that you don’t even know about. If you like writing and need some oxygen now and then, writing about music is a natural combination. My love for music made me take piano lessons: after a few years it became clear that it didn’t really stick with me. Nor did the trumpet, which I tried to learn too. Well, maybe I should have tried it earlier in live. Starting it your thirties is a bit late, even when it is in your early thirties! A lasting legacy of this episode is that I realized that making music is like giving a speech without reading it from paper, although there are exceptions, like orchestras. But once they've started a song or tune it sounds like they just go with the flow, or, as the expression goes, be taken away by their own muse.