Flamenco, the Soul of Seville, Spain

Slim-hipped Oscar de los Reyes stepped from the shadows into the circle of light on the small wooden stage. Clad entirely in black, he stood ramrod straight, arms held rigidly at his sides. His black eyes glittered, reflecting sparks from the single spotlight. He stared straight ahead, oblivious to the expectant audience. The world renowned Flamenco dancer’s body was a mere ten feet away but his essence was galaxies away, drawing power and inspiration from some higher power.

A cantaora abruptly pierced the stillness with an anguished wail that wandered up and down the scales, drawing the audience into the power of her song. De los Reyes responded with lightning-fast footwork, his nail-studded boots a blur as he tapped out complex steps. I watched with rapt attention as his arms reached outward in a plea, up in jubilation, inward for a self-protective embrace. His long black curls spewed droplets of sweat with every twirl until, saturated, they plastered permanently to his forehead. For the next 30 minutes his passions, his heartbreaks, his joys were laid bare. It was the most electrifying, sensual performance I had ever witnessed.

Real Alcazar, the palace where Spanish monarchs stay when visiting Seville Spain
Real Alcazar, the palace where Spanish monarchs stay when visiting Seville

I left the performance on a natural high, my feet barely touching the pavement. This was the kind of energy I had expected to encounter in this popular Spanish city, but over the past few days I’d found it difficult to connect with Seville. I had poked my nose into lushly planted inner courtyards and toured ancient stone churches. I’d hopped aboard a horse-drawn carriage for an hour tour that provided a broad overview of the city’s most important sites, including the Real Alcazar Palace, which is still used by the Spanish monarchs when they come to town, and the ornate Plaza de Espana. Cat Gaa, a fellow travel writer based in Seville who publishes the Seville-centric blog Sunshine and Siestas had met up with me for a delicious vegetarian lunch at Habanita Restaurant. Still, something wasn’t quite right. Though Seville was gorgeous, with the exception of tourists it seemed a tad lifeless.

By night, the squares of Seville Spain are filled with locals enjoying life
By night, the squares of Seville are filled with locals enjoying life

That evening, still filled with adrenaline from the Flamenco performance, I meandered the cobblestone streets until well after midnight, and I finally understood. After dark, Sevillanos flock to plazas bathed in the soft golden glow of streetlamps. Kids bounce up and down on teeter-totters and scramble around neon-painted monkey bars, while moms and dads stand in line for ice cream. Singles cluster around waist-high tables pushed out onto the street, munching on tapas and draining carafes of fruity Sangria. Music blares into the streets from cafes, and retail stores displaying the newest fashions throw open their doors.

I wandered willy-nilly around town for hours. Each time I thought about heading back to my B&B, I emerged into yet another plaza brimming with exuberant people who were simply and quite clearly enjoying life. The energy of Seville by night prickled the hair on the back of my neck and sent shivers down my spine. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. In the same way that I’d felt the “duende” – the soul – of Flamenco, I finally connected with the duende of Seville. Both are magnetic and energizing, and both must be witnessed after dark. Even if I’d had only one day to visit Seville, I would have easily discovered the city’s soul if I’d roamed the streets at night.

Can’t view the above slideshow about Seville, Spain? Click here.

Note: Unfortunately, the establishment where I attended the Flamenco performance, Casa de la Memoria, did not allow photos or filming during the performance. However, the following video from YouTube is an excellent example of an Oscar de los Reyes Flamenco performance:

25 thoughts on “Flamenco, the Soul of Seville, Spain”

  1. My wife and I are excited for the vacation we’ve booked in Europe to Spain and definitely we will go to the Canary. Tenerife is one of our eyeing place for our 1st stop 🙂 There so many thing we want to do. I wanted to know if you have experience traveling to this wonderful Island. Is there anything you can recommend aside from your past travel in in Spain?

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  5. I’m so glad that you have fallen in love with flamenco! I’ve lived in Madrid for seven years now and although I’ve always loved going to a show now and then, I’m just now getting interested in the history and culture of the dance. It really is fascinating!

    By the way, you have to see this video from BBC about using Flamenco as a form of protest in the local bank in Sevilla – it’s awesome! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22110887

    • Hi Nicole: FANTASTIC video of the Flamenco protest in a bank. Sent chills down my spine and gave me an idea for a story. Thank you so much for sending it along.

    • Hi Yenny – isn’t the architecture incredible? Some of the buildings are 800 years old and they would never think of tearing them down. In the U.S. we think a building is old when it hits 100. Different views for sure, but then I guess it’s because the U.S. is a very young country.

    • Thank you so much, Frugal Monkey. Just read your article and I see I am in great company. Appreciate your recommendation of my blog.

    • Hi Cristina: I suspect you’re right that a lot of non-Latin folks might not “get” the Flamenco, but I certainly did. It literally make my hair stand up on end, as if an electric current was running through my body. I have the same reaction every time I watch Oscar de los Reyes dance in a video. Interestingly, I did not have that same reaction with the woman who also danced that night. De los Reyes was just mesmerizing.

  6. Barbara, Your post made me begin daydreaming about Spain so I had to re-read your post and watch the video again.

    Such a beautiful and powerful voice. He reached in and just grabbed my heart. Listening to him, I’m reminded how powerful an instrument the voice is and how refreshing it is to hear music the features it so prominently.

    I spent 4 months learning Spanish in Barcelona in the 70s but didn’t have the time or the funds to make it to Seville. It just means I have to return, maybe for another 4 months. Thanks, Barbara!

    • Hi Inside Journeys: Interesting comment. You were touched by the singer and I was touched by the dancer. I guess that is what Flamenco is all about; everyone connects with it in a very personal way.

  7. One thing I love about Seville is how it continues to surprise me, even after all this time here. It’s a city that takes a little while to break into, but once you do, it’s enrapturing. Being able to share some of my favorite rinconcitos with you was a treat – you’re bienvenida at any time!


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