Catching flamenco performances in Sevilla, Spain

by Linda Ledray

QUESTION: I am planning a trip to Spain in the near future. I expect I will be traveling alone, as my friends don’t travel much these days. It’s a shame. I love flamenco music and dancing — watching, that is. I just don’t feel comfortable going out to a nightclub alone but cannot imagine not being able to watch flamenco while I am there. Any suggestions? — Emma Rose, Steamboat Springs, CO

ANSWER: I am glad to hear that you love flamenco, and I agree. I cannot imagine a trip to Spain without enjoying the national dance. But you don’t have to miss it and I certainly hope you will not.

As you may know, for the Spanish, flamenco is not just a type of dance, it is an art form and truly a way of life! Flamenco came about as a response to the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century. The Gypsies who remained in Spain after most were expelled with the Jews and Muslims were not allowed to speak their language, practice their religion or live nomadic “unproductive” lifestyles. Many fled to the hills of Andalusia, the southern region encompassing Sevilla. It is here that flamenco developed and flourishes still today.

Not only is Sevilla the heart of flamenco, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. The numerous parks, formal gardens with fountains, and small waterways are a welcome refuge from the afternoon heat. I found the Barrio Santa Cruz the most unique area with its narrow cobblestone streets winding between whitewashed stucco buildings heavily draped with flowers.

Flamenco, much like bullfighting, was a way for the “commoner” to break free from his daily burdens and routine. It is also a reminder of the past, their heritage. The vibrant and explosive music and dance, much like the Gypsy lifestyle, excites the imagination with its grace, fluidity and lack of attachment.

Gypsies today still have retained an admirable lack of desire for unnecessary material possessions. They work for their necessities, often by dancing. In good times, they may work for a week and earn enough to live and enjoy life for a month. To the Gypsy, it appears that the non-Gypsies work all their lives for things they don’t need and really don’t enjoy.

You will find flamenco performed at “flamenco tablados.” Most are dinner clubs. You can either arrive early and have dinner or arrive later in time for a drink, tapas (hors d’oeuvres) and a show. Shows usually begin late, by our standards, at 9 and 11 p.m.

If you do not want to attend alone, you will find that most cities offer group dinner tours to flamenco tablados. Your hotel can provide you with the information. If you decide to join a tour, you will be picked up to join a group of tourists for a night of dinner and flamenco, then returned to your hotel.

These tours are often a great opportunity to meet other travelers with like interests and possibly other solo travelers with whom you can later enjoy other sites. It is also a great way to at least enjoy a nice dinner and be introduced to flamenco in the company of others, if you prefer not to dine alone.

You likely will find the very best of the best flamenco dancers in Sevilla. Los Gallos, in the Barrio Santa Cruz, was considered one of the best flamenco tablados when I visited years ago. It was an amazing show.

When I was in Madrid, the famous flamenco dancer Blanca del Rey was performing at Corral de Moreria, at Calle de Moreria 17. It was an incredible show, the dinner was good, with a choice of entrées, and the moderate price was well worth the cost. Other flamenco tablados from which I chose were Las Brujas, Arcado Cuchilleros and Los Canasteros.

The quality will, of course, always depend upon who is dancing when you are visiting, so ask the locals for advice, starting at your hotel. If you join a group tour, be sure to ask others in the group what other flamenco tablados they have experienced and that they would recommend. You will find one is not enough! The experience is addictive.

If you are so inclined, you can move beyond spectator status and participate more fully in the Spanish lifestyle by taking flamenco dance lessons. Most dancers who perform in the tablados also teach for extra income. If you wait until after the show, you can ask your favorite performer if she teaches or can recommend an instructor.

You can take private or group lessons for a minimal cost. I would recommend a couple of private lessons before you join a group. What a great way to meet locals as well as other travelers. I met Canadians, Japanese and other Americans who were learning flamenco from the masters. The dance studio is also a great place to find knowledgeable new friends who can direct you to the tablados where the best flamenco dancers are performing. . . and they likely will join you. It may even be your instructor who is dancing. If you are lucky, you may be invited to a juerga, a flamenco dance party where you can really enjoy the spirit of flamenco.

Even if you decide you are not up to dance lessons, a trip to a dance studio provides an interesting look into the “real” Spain, and, again, it’s a good place to get information on where to see the best local flamenco performers.

If you have the opportunity, I would strongly recommend that while visiting Spain you stay in paradores. A parador is a government-run hotel. You will find them throughout Spain. Most are historic sites that have been restored and turned into hotels. Many are restored castles.

They are moderately priced, but the food and facilities are consistently excellent, and it’s often a luxurious refuge at the end of the day. I also found them very safe and comfortable for a solo traveler. The Tourist Office of Spain (phone 888/657-7246 or visit can provide you with information on locations, prices and availability.