Shiny black flamenco shoes play hide-and-seek beneath a swirling turquoise skirt. Swift feet alternately stomp the small stage with frantic taps and controlled shuffles. Myriad hands clap in syncopated tempo around a dancer, the bright red flower in her hair impervious to the energetic movement. A Spanish guitar strums fervidly, intensifying the captivating percussion reverberating around the room.
Firm hands pull me up to dance. Having never done this before, I freeze momentarily, willing my body into some semblance of motion. Following the stranger’s lead, I bring my arms up to shoulder level, sway my arms left and right, and twirl my wrists in what I hope is a passable first attempt. I’m sure I’m not moving very gracefully, but I don’t care. I’m in Seville for the first time, and I’m not about to let a fear of embarrassment ruin the fun.
Only when I sit down again do I realize most of the spectators have gone. Those of us remaining are ushered into a more intimate space. A guitarist begins to pluck his strings. A confident male tenor sings an emotional tune, his melody occasionally resembling a wail. I don’t comprehend all the Spanish lyrics, but I can feel the sentimentality as he ends his song – a story of love, of loss, of heartbreak.
Rich, harmonic piano chords join the guitar in commencing a bulería. The spirited improvisation inspires a few individuals to rise from their seats and dance in the center of the room. My hands struggle to clap along with the 12-beat compás, a rhythm that seems so intrinsic to those raised in this Andalusian tradition. Uno-dos, uno-dos-tres, cuatro-cinco-seis, siete-ocho-nueve-diez.
The guitarist’s alluring baritone interjects; the piano softens. Shouts of “Olé!” rise up from the revelers. The few foreigners remaining, myself included, indulge in late-night tapas as we toast with the musicians. They are the storytellers, the conservatory professors, the artists, and the flamenco lovers who share their heritage with passion. The pride, virtuosity, charisma, palmas…the art of it all is unforgettable.
When my cousins and I finally leave, the music seems to follow us as we wend our way through the narrow, maze-like streets of the historic district. Using La Giralda as our point of reference, we find our apartment basking in the luminescence that is the Catedral de Sevilla. Admiring the cathedral’s lights shining across the plaza, I breathe in the dawn air, saturated with an indistinguishable vibrancy. Olé.