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A Short History of Baile Flamenco

by Mica Graña

Chapter 1

An architecture of movement
movement that does not keep time
but arrests it.

An architectural form
that does not extend space
with expanse of gesture
or floating air born leap.
Instead, a containment,
a drawing in of space,
a marshalling of energy in readiness for delivery.

The delivery, a combustion
of rhythm, energy, emotion and personal style
extruded in short order.

The great dancer, Miguel Funi,
it was pointed out,
could get lost up on stage.
The usual dancer's dream,
unfettered space,
being antithetical to flamenco's home.

Not created as performance art
but, like the blues,
within the closed circle
of family, neighbourhood bar
or house of prostitution
flamenco's native habitats
were strictly confined spaces.
And, as any aficionado will tell you,
the best flamenco rarely occurs on stage
with luck, afterwards.

Chapter 2

Afterwards, at the bar
people are ordering drinks.
Someone begins to pound out
the compás, the rhythm
with their knuckles on the bar.

It is sometime between 8 + 9 in the morning.
This late in the summer the sun rises past 8.
The feria has finally shut down 'til the afternoon rolls around.
Someone else begins a counter rhythm
with a spoon against a glass.

The milk steamer on the expresso machine
roars up intermittently,
accompanied by the pinging of the pinball machine,
as Funi begins to sing.

Now, after a night of working at the feria,
performing for the crowds,
he is relaxed, warmed up, a gusto
and ready to roll.

He stands at the bar
his still immaculate white scarf
draped around his neck
and hanging loose, as always.

His voice lifts over the sounds
of coffee beans grinding and being expressed into cups
The clatter of dishes behind the bar,
people eating, drinking and talking
and, of course, the proverbial punctuation
of motocicletas in the street outside
unfettered, a la moda, of mufflers whatsoever.

Nothing deters him now, though,
because his moment has arrived.
The spirits have been marshalled,
the energy, the rhythm, the emotion,
the time, the place, the aficionados,
his close clutch of companions of the moment.

The duendes will out
those spirits, once allowed entrance,
will have their way.

Chapter 3

Miguel is standing in the corner at the end of the bar.
Behind him, the door to the urinal
and just to the side
two huge plastic drums of water.
In front of the bar
myriad spindly-legged metal and formica tables and chairs.
This, then, is Funi's stage.
He begins to dance,
seemingly oblivious
to the chairs and peoples' legs in his path
or the comings and goings to and from the urinal.
He never trips nor collides.
And, by this time even some of the breakfast crowd
are quieting down realizing
this isn't just any after hours gitano
singing his head off.

But Miguel is elsewhere.
He is transmitting.
His voice and body instruments
through which the duendes make their presence known.

We are in the presence now
not only of Miguel's superb interpretation of flamenco
(you can get this good but you cannot get better)
but, also, in the presence of the old ones
the flesh, reincarnate, from which
Miguel's cante and baile were born.

M. Graña


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