Maria Rosa Pérez Casares is more than just the manager of one of Barcelona’s most popular Tablaos, or small flamenco stages. She is the daughter of two famous Flamenco artists and used to be a dancer herself. “There is a feeling at work between the dancers and musicians. They inspire each other. Each song has a basic structure, but on the stage, a lot is improvised. This is the best part of the flamenco.”
The Tablao Cordobés, named after famous Spanish bullfighter El Cordobés, has an almost exclusive audience of foreigners, but it certainly isn’t a performance put up for tourists. Famous artists come to dance at the Tablao, right in the middle of Barcelona’s most famous avenue, La Rambla, where the theatres, show halls and night clubs were traditionally situated.
“My father, Luis Adame, is a guitarist and my mother, Irene Alba, was a dancer. When my parents came here to perform in 1970, the owner of this place decided to leave the management to them”, Pérez says. “It’s difficult to manage flamenco dancers if you don’t know the art. Then you can’t ask the artists to change anything and they might start to make fun of you. There are people nowadays who try to organize these performances for tourists using microphones and mediocre musicians. It doesn’t work.”
Flamenco originally came from the southern region of Andalucía, where a mixture of different cultures, including those from gypsies, Jewish, Indian and possibly Egyptian immigrants, became entangled in the style and dance. Migrants brought it to Barcelona, one of the wealthier cities in Spain and a place where people would go looking for jobs. “When I was young, there were still distinctive styles in the different regions. I danced a Catalan style, which worked more with the feet. Nowadays, these differences have faded away,” Pérez says.
Over the years, some very famous flamenco artists were born and educated in Barcelona or its surroundings, providing Pérez with a large group of artists to choose from. “As these performers are famous in Spain and abroad, they travel around the world. So we can’t get them for very long.”
So Pérez tries to attract new artists all the time. “Right now, we have the niece of Carmen Amaya, one of the most important female dancers in the world, performing here. But it’s not only dancers we seek. The singers and the guitarists have to be good too. In flamenco, it’s all about feeling, so the music has to be good for the dancers to be able to do their jobs.”
Flamenco performances are based loosely around traditional poems, songs, dances and rhythms. There are different styles and tempos depending on the mood that the performers wish to express. And express it they do at Tablao Cordobés. When the singers get going, the dancers hitch the hems of their long skirts and rattle out gunfire rhythms on the small wooden stage, with such purpose that you can feel the vibrations in your seat. If you are looking for a blast of Spanish passion, you need to come here.
Cordobés is a real Tablao, meaning a small stage, and you will find no more than 180 visitors in the cave-like theater, where sound is amplified all by itself. It is also the traditional stage for flamenco dancing in Barcelona. “In the time of my parents, the Tablaos were the best schools to learn flamenco dancing,” Pérez says. While she learned the art from her parents, young people nowadays can study advanced techniques in a school, and then go on to practice them at the Tablaos. “When you see the performances now, you can see how good their techniques are. For me, it’s too tiring, I can’t do this anymore.”
Even though there are still plenty of young artists who study to be flamenco dancers, the amount of Tablaos is dwindling, Pérez says. “Often, artists are more famous abroad than here in Spain, because the dance is more appreciated there. Although here at Cordobés, we do have local people also who come to enjoy the last evening shows, because they know these are the real artists.”
Tablao Flamenco Cordobés, La Rambla, 35, 08002 Barcelona, Spain. Metro: The nearest metro stations are either Liceu or Drassanes. Tel: +34 933 175 711. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Website: www.tablaocordobes.es .