Sunday, October 03, 2004

la bodega

In north beach, there is a tapas bar with a flamenco performance, where we headed to for some sangria after the consulate. (And yes, Tony, I do talk a lot about food, but only when it's really good or entertaining.)

Jean and others were already there having tried some scrumptious mushrooms, manchego, and blood saugsages. The walls are covered with posters from bullfighting matches, a large black and white poster of the bullfighter from behind was in the light near the bar. We order under candlelight and ask if there will be another flamenco performance as we ask the hostess for a pitcher of water.

We order, get our pitcher of water, and the music starts. A woman standing on a "dance floor" maybe 5 foot square stands with a red brimmed hat, arms held above her head, fingers strapped with castanets. It was our hostess. I had never seen flamenco done live before, but having seen numerous Philippine Spanish dances I could guess at how it might be. The music started with a very recognizable song, the one that's usually played when one imagines the bullfighter entering the ring, though I don't know the name.

Eileen equipped with some serious clogging heels rhythmically joined along. The music is indeed entrancing.

Our hostess danced for about 10-15 minutes. Some with music, one acapella-like dancing to the rhythm in her heart, then asked the crowd to join. She walked through the crowd and played castanets on the various men sitting around. Since the fiance was the only gentleman at our table, she rattled her castanets on his shoulder to which he replied, "I never knew I could be a musical instrument."

Part of me felt bad for her, the crowd was tepid, very few cheers of encouragement, a few grins, even one or two side louder side conversations. It's a hard venue to perform in. Our table feeling good from sangria cleared to cha-cha on the dance floor....close enough...worked with the beat. The fiance was particularly good at the sway rotation of the hands, so delicate.

It wasn't the best dancing I had ever seen. There was no furiously rapid rhythms. Her castanets supplemented by the piped music. Her sway balance was a bit stiff, not as layed back. Dance is often centered around youth. There are very few places for the aging dancer less they start their own troop full of young bodies. And of course, what you see with youth, is the sheer athleticism, how they effortlessly bend their bodies to perfect form, or push the beats to incomprehensible fractions. These things are always breathtaking. If you do not watch dance, these things are easily recognizable: speed, power, agility.

Yet, there was something mesmerizing about her. It was not about snapping to perfect form, it was about entering the music and becoming one with it. In her smile and movement, there was simply joy, the joy of dancing to simply dance to feel the force of your heels into the earth. There is an appreciation she shows in the dance. Dance is not about age or physical beauty, it's about soul, a sense of grace, of understanding what it means to dance for a lifetime and for dance to be that lifetime. Something that is difficult to find in younger dancers, even the good ones. There is sincerity. She is here because simply the flamenco calls, and she follows its will, a surrender to the dance. And so what the crowd just watches as if they were the posters on the walls and the waiters barely stop to even glance. So long as there is music in the heart, even the speakers can go silent.

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