Thursday, May 3, 2012

"...With Humility Comes Wisdom"

As stated in our last blog, Mele and I took a trip up to Phoenix in April with great excitement.  We would be seeing Paco de Lucia with his ensemble that night.  First of all, it was to be my first time seeing him live, and second, here in Tucson we rarely have the opportunity to see high level flamenco, direct from the source.  We were enthusiastic to put it mildly, and not without reason.  As we'd expected, it was a very satisfying show, but this trip was to be more than just a night out.

  It was truly a full day's event due to the fact that Farru, of the famous/infamous Farruco family dynasty, was offering a workshop that Tuesday morning.  I must say however, before going on about that, that I admit experiencing some apprehension going into that day.  Farru is a young man, with somewhat of a history here in the southwestern United States.  He has made an impression on many a person here, in the way that teenage, talented, good-looking boys with fame and money tend to impress people.  See Webster's Dictionary for a full and accurate definition of the word "impress".

  I've never met anyone or heard from anyone that has studied with Farru before.  I imagined a workshop of his to be fast paced, nuanced, and complex, as I think most people who have seen him dance would likely have been led to believe.  Would he be teaching or simply patronizing us?  At the end of the day, would I take away a nugget of wisdom, or perhaps some new tool that would inform the rest of my flamenco studies?  The good news is that he did indeed impart some valuable information to us, or at least, I can speak for myself in saying that I am already a better flamenco now than I was before his workshop.

  I've been taught before that day that growth in flamenco isn't hoarding material, like a dense falseta, a new step, or some rapid-fire tongue-twister of a letra.  It's humbling the self enough to go back to the beginning to see if we really understand what we have assumed we understood.  Perhaps it may be the mere layering of a simple concept of which we had some limited grasp.  Amusingly, as a side note, this very idea itself qualifies under its own definition, or in other words, I'd understood this idea before listening to Farru's words, and my understanding itself has become layered in the same way one might layer a simple dance step.  He spoke words I've heard before, but I came to understand them in new ways.

  I found myself in complete agreement with Farru as he explained how important it is to study cante, and to develop the ability to use basic steps with flavor and understanding.  These are things I've tried to impart to my own students, yet here I was hearing it from a young man who, as I came to see, had greatly matured in recent years.  He didn't just say it, by the way; he subsequently demonstrated it through a little patada he was given as a child to study.  He showed us the steps, ran it a few times at the end of class, and we were done.  90 minutes flew by. 

  This all said, I'm fully aware of the fact that Paco's tour has gone to many neighboring cities this Spring, and that Farru has probably given the same exact material to each group he's taught along the way, regardless of the overall level of the dancers.  I'm also sure there have been those who have rolled their eyes as they watched the clock, realizing that they wouldn't be leaving the studio that day with a new siguiriya to dance later that week.  I bring this up not to make fun of anyone, but to point out that it appears to me that yes, we really do need to hear what he had to say, and he had a genuine reason for saying it.  We are paying, consuming, money-making proof of that.

That night as I watched the show, I smiled a little to myself, looking down from the back of the theater at Farru.  He was dressed just like Maestro Paco; a white shirt, black pants, black vest, black shoes.  He was out there with all the musicians doing palmas, not like a rock-star, but like a student.  Once again, he didn't just say it, but lived it.  What a day that I won't forget.