MALAGA, Spain, January 25, 2005 "“ All year long "“ during any given week "“ visitors can enjoy flamenco in cities and towns throughout Andalusia. In tablaos, peÃ±as and theatres, this region of southern Spain hosts a non-stop fiesta devoted to the region's signature dance form.
Nowhere is the stamping of tacones, the clapping of hands and the chording compas of the guitarra more in evidence than in the "cradle of flamenco," Jerez de la Frontera. Andalusia's flamenco season kicks off February 24 with the 10th Festival of Jerez featuring such renowned flamenco greats as Manuela del Carrasco (2/25), Merche Esmeralda (2/27), Sara Baras (3/03), Los Farrucos (3/05), Antonio el Pipa Company (3/08) and Pedro Cierra (3/10). Closing this two-week extravaganza on March 11 will be the legendary Fosforito. This year the festival "“ one of the world's most important "“ is presenting an expanded program of 49 flamenco performances and guitar concerts and 36 flamenco courses as well as exhibitions and lectures.
Opening the festival on February 24 will be native son and flamenco dancer JoaquÃn Grilo with the premiere of his show "A Solas." During the 16 days of the festival (three more than last year) aficionados will be able to enjoy two other premieres as Carmen CortÃ©s debuts "La puerta del silencio" (The Door of Silence) (3/04) and AÃda GÃ³mez presents her "Carmen" (3/09). The Villamarta Theatre, a carefully restored architectural jewel from the 1920s in the old quarter of Jerez, will host many performances. Other shows and guitar concerts will take place at Los ApÃ³stoles Inn, La CampaÃ±Ãa music hall and the Villavicencio Palace. The GuadalcacÃn Theatre will host two series: "De la frontera" ("From the border") and "Los NovÃsimos" ("The Very New Ones").
"We want to show flamenco fans all the new directions and trends in flamenco," said festival director Francisco LÃ³pez. "Our goal is to gather everything that has taken place in flamenco from the 1960s to the 1980's without, of course, forgetting the contributions of the current generation," he explained.
One of the most popular institutions at the Jerez Festival is the flamenco dancing "university." This year there are 900 places for 36 courses of various levels all taught by flamenco masters (several of whom will perform in New York and Washington during Flamenco Festival 2006) such as Merche Esmeralda and Antonio el Pipa and others like Manolo MarÃn, Matilde Coral, MarÃa del Mar Moreno, Rafael Campallo and BelÃ©n Maya. Responding to growing interest, 18 courses are slated for novices.
For the uninitiated, the art of flamenco exists in cante (song), baile (dance) and guitarra (guitar). The modern day tablao (a flamenco stage with regular shows) evolved from the famous 19th century cafes cantantes, or singing cafes. PeÃ±as are private clubs for local aficionados.
The festival is also an opportunity to celebrate two of the city's other iconic lures: Andalusian horses and sherry. Jerez is home to the acclaimed equestrian school, the Real Escuela Andaluz de Arte Ecuestre and the capital of Spain's sherry production so visitors can enjoy displays of superb horsemanship and tastings at local bodegas. The Centro Andaluz de Flamenco in the Palacio de Penmartin gives a good introduction to the art, the Museo de Relojes has one of the largest clock collections in Europe and the 12th century alcÃ¡zar de Jerez houses a former mosque.
In 2006 flamenco festivals and other related fiestas will take place throughout Andalusia. Last month Malaga announced "Malaga en Flamenco," an ambitious year-long series of activities. Upcoming festivals include:
June 23-July 9 "“ Granada International Festival of Music and Dance
Â· July 1-14 "“ International Guitar Festival in Cordoba
July-August "“ Cadiz Flamenco Summer Festival
Mid-July thru August "“ Flamenco Thursdays in Cadiz
Â· August "“ Quadalquivier Festival in Sanlucar de la Barrameda
August "“ Flamenco Fridays in Jerez de la Frontera
September 13-October 15 "“ the 14th Biennial de Flamenco in Seville
October "“ World Fair of Flamenco Seville
The following tour operators are offering packages to Andalucia: Central Holidays www.centralholidays.com/andalucia (866) 521-4180; Spanish Heritage Tours www.shtours.com (800) 456-5050; Sun Holidays www.sunholidaytours.com (800) 422-8000 and Trafalgar Tours www.trafalgar.com (800) 854-0103.
Tickets for performances start at 12 euros and courses cost about $360.
For further information go to www.festivaldejerez.es
. For information about flamenco courses go to call 011-34-956-327-100. And for more information about the region of Andalusia contact: the Tourist Office of Spain at 212-265-8822 or www.spain.info or go to www.andalucia.org.