There are a great many extravagant claims made about the great Madrid flamenco tablao Corral de la Moreria, not least its inclusion on the New York Times list of 1,000 places to see before you die.
And yes there will be tourists in attendance, including overweight Americans and Parisians in pointy glasses. But for good reason. More importantly, Madrilenos speak of this tablao with reverent tones. It’s where some of the most talented and accomplished flamenco dancers in Spain perform.
I can tell you there was a lot of foot stomping, castanet clicking and skirt flicking. But I can’t begin to convey the passion bursting from that tiny stage in Madrid.
Bodies flexing; hands flying. I briefly felt sorry for the male lead dancer, who seemed to be trying to hold his too-small jacket together. But when he danced, well, there was a man who is in touch with his sexuality. He was the best at stomping, finger clicking and no doubt anything else he puts his mind to.
He certainly had the three old guys accompanying the dancing going, with their snarling singing and hand clapping. I don’t think they really established who could clap or stamp fastest but they were wiping the sweat from their brows by the end of his performance.
Gloria was a little lady carrying a lot of dress but she showed some very original moves and an immense joy, controlling an ocean of frills masterfully. She was mistress of the achingly soft foot stomp.
At the end they all crowded on to the stage an indulged in an orgy of exhibitionism. I don’t know what is at the heart of the attraction of flamenco for the outsider: the power, the rhythm, the stomping?
Perhaps it’s all about the shoes; those fabulous, mesmerizing shoes. I wanted to rush straight out next morning and buy a pair from the little baile shop on Calle Leon near my Madrid hotel.
That was until I found out how much they cost in the cold light of day. Oh well, I’m sure no one has ever heard of a red-haired flamenco dancer in Madrid.
I don’t mean to sound flippant. I was moved by the strange chords and fluttering fingers of the guitar playing, let alone the dancing.
The candlelight glowed in the glasses of red wine and it was a great night out in Madrid. A thigh-slapping good time only, you know, cultural.
By Natasha von Geldern