Let’s talk about the “Flamenco”
Flamenco is a traditional Spanish art form and it is a well-known performance art in the world. To be perfectly honest, before I get to know more about the dance, I always thought it was the “Flamingo” dance – First, I supposed it was because of the movements and the gestures that remind me of how a slender, and pink flamingo; Secondly, the acoustic guitar that reminds me a little bit of Tango and Salsa (but then people who dance would know they are completely different things – but I don’t), and lastly, the ruffled dresses that remind me of a bird…
In all seriousness, Flamenco actually is an art consisting of three important elements – flamenco guitar playing (Guitarra), songs (cante), and dance (baile). It is widely recognized for its sensual movements and foot-stomping in its dance and rhythmical guitar music with singing.
There are also two moves that are frequently incorporated into the dance: hand clapping (palmas) and finger-snapping (pitos). The dance, music, and singing combine and spark fireworks of a variety of emotions which are passionate, lament, and deep.
Flamenco was introduced to the south of Spain by the Gypsies in the 18th century, incorporating Spanish folklore with sounds from the Levant, North Africa, and even India – it is now considered to be native to the Spanish regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, and Murcia.
Seville, the largest city in the Andalusia region is considered one of the main birthplaces and the hotbed of Flamenco. In the past, the dance was a window for the working class to vent and lash out their stress and struggles in their daily lives.
Now, it is an art and culture that the Spanish would happily share with the entire world, and it could be watched in many cities in Spain. So, when I was in Barcelona, I managed to book and watch a Flamenco show. Tablao de Carmen is one of the best venues to see the Flamenco live show, with dinner or Tapas.
Tablao de Carmen – how to get there
Located in the Andalucian section of the Poble Espanyol de Montjuïc, the venue is located within a heritage building in the city center’s greenbelt.
Tablao de Carmen is a short 10-minute walk away from the Plaça Espanya (lines 1 and 3) Metro Station. While visitors may take a bus to Poble Espanyol, which takes merely a few minutes. I suggest going there on foot, as you will be greeted by the Majestic Magic fountain of Montjuic once you get out of the metro station, walk toward the fountain and turn left.
The performance venue is located inside Poble Espanyol and there is so much more to see – it has an architecture museum, boutiques, and shops; it is also a beautiful photo-taking spot. While Tablao de Carmen offers two shows a night (6 pm and 8:30 pm), get there an hour or two hours earlier to explore the place before the show.
Tablao de Carmen – the history
In Spanish, “Tablao” means a place where flamenco shows are performed. Developed during the 1960s, Tablao replaced Cabaret (Cafes cantantes) and became the venue of Flamenco shows; and the place typically has at least four flamenco dancers for the show.
Tablao de Carmen was the place where Carmen Amaya, a prestigious Flamenco dancer, performed on stage in front of the King Alfonso XIII of Spain in the 19th century. As a result, the venue holds a great historical and sentimental value to the owners, as well as the visits. The place carries on Carmen Amaya’s legacy and pays tribute to her.
There are photos and information about Carmen Amaya shown in the restaurant.
Poble Espanyol – the heritage site
Poble Espanyol is a heritage site located on the mountain of Montjuic, an autonomous region of Spain, and now a tourist complex with souvenir shops, fountains, restaurants, schools, designer stores, and I saw a glass-making studio.
The Spanish Village was built for the 1929 International Exhibition. The entire structure was created with the purpose to concentrate these art and cultural activities in one place. Today, it is an open-air architectural museum in the city – with a number of locations that architecture that brings you back centuries to the historic Spanish era. Journey on to see the buildings, stroll through typical Spanish places, discover the trades of different artisans working in their workshops, view artworks by contemporary masters like Dali, Picasso, Miro, Tapies, and Barcelo, enjoy Mediterranean cuisine, and purchase an original gift from one of the shops as a souvenir.
As I mentioned, there is more to see on the site so get there earlier before the show to explore the site.
Fun facts about Poble Espanyol?
- El Poble Espanyol was originally supposed to be demolished at the end of the Exhibition. However, its success saved it as it was the most visited complex in the exhibition.
- At the time it was an innovative town-planning project. It was conceived as a real town by the architects Francesc Folguera and Ramon Reventos. The modernist architect Puig i Cadafalch was the driving force behind it, while the art critic Miquel Utrillo and the painter Xavier Nogues were also involved.
- Its creators visited 1600 towns throughout Spain and the south of Portugal in order to choose the buildings they wanted to reproduce. Because they were traveling in a Hispano Suiza car, the Canary Islands and the Balearics were left out of the project. Despite this, a building from Palma de Mallorca was eventually included. It was reproduced with the help of some photographs.
- It is one of the largest open-air museums. It has a surface area of 40,000 square meters. In other words, it is 4 times the size of Barca’s or RCD Espanyol’s football pitch.
- El Poble Espanyol is also known as the City of Artisans. More than 40 artisan workshops are located in the complex and it has been declared an Area of Craft Interest by the Catalan government. It is also part of the city’s Shopping line and is its only Arts & Crafts Shopping Centre.
- The Sanjuan glass craft workshop has one of the only two traditional glassblowing furnaces left in Spain. the furnace’s temperature is between 1200 and 1500 degrees centigrade and it is never turned off.
- The Glass Art Luesma-Vega craft workshop creates some of the glassware and crockery for the El Bulli restaurant, run by the acclaimed chef Ferran Adria.
The Flamenco Show
The Tablao was actually an intimate place. The site has two levels, and we sat on the ground level and got really close to the stage. The show started early at 6 pm with a pitcher of Sangria on our table and a big plate of Spanish ham and garlic bread:). 3 female dancers and 1 male dancer performed one by one and then they danced together. Their cuisine combines typical Andaluz dishes with an international flair.
Check out their website for more information about their ticketing and menu.
1st phase 6 pm (dinner) 6:40 pm (show)
2nd phase 8:30 pm (dinner) 9:15 pm (show)
The ticket also includes free entrance to the Spanish Village from 4 pm
Flamenco & Drink: €45
Enjoy the flamenco show while seated around a table with a drink of your choice.
Flamenco Tapas Dinner: €63
While seated at your table, enjoy our genuine flamenco show with a typical Spanish tapas dinner.
Carmen Flamenco Dinner: €82
While seated at your table, enjoy our genuine flamenco show with a traditional dinner.
A Star evening costs €154, it presents a live experience through a private welcoming that will introduce the unique story of Carmen Amaya, and her connection with the Tablao de Carmen with a glass of cava.
As Flamenco was spreading across Spain, the show could be seen in many cities in Spain and they are, in fact, professional and exceptional. Usually, dancers wear vibrant and traditional ruffle dresses with a big bun on their heads; and with no routine in their choreography, flamenco professional dancers stomp out rapidly to the beautiful melodies created by the singer and guitar player. Sometimes they use their toes, sometimes the ankle or the entire foot. Each performer wore a different color of dress or suit, and the lighting changed accordingly to their song. I totally agree that singing and guitar playing are also an important part of the performance – they set the mood and gave the dance performance depth and layers. While the dance was the most eye-catchy part of the show, I appreciated a lot the amazing guitar playing and singing performance as well.
We were still in the mood for some tapas and sangria after the show, and we went to La Rambla, the neighbor of the most densely populated area in Barcelona – the old town Barro Gòtic. In Barro Gòtic, much of the architecture could be traced back to the 15th century (like La cathedral). Strolling in the spiderweb-like Barro Gòtic allies could be rewarding as they are filled with boutique stores.
La Rambla is the busiest business avenue in the city and lots of artists came to perform. El Raval was once the red light district of the city with lots of coffee shops and nightclubs until in the 60s the art museum was established and it transformed the area. Hip hotels and designer stores were set up. The restaurants and cafes in La Rambla open until late at night. However, the prices of tapas and drinks in the main streets could be quite crazy….
Here is a glimpse of the incredible dance performance that I recorded: