When Eliana, a young flamenco dancer from Madrid, stepped out from behind a curtain into the red-hot glow of the stage, little did I know how much she would profoundly affect me.
My wife, Mona, and I were seated in a small underground cave waiting to experience our first live flamenco performance. From a tiny stage, four musicians filled the space with highly melismatic singing, rhythmic clapping patterns, and the sound of flamenco guitar. The simplicity of the setting was in stark contrast to the complex ensemble of these accomplished musicians. Moments later, Eliana appeared, her face twisted in intensity, and began a slow, seductive dance. She glided across the stage, her chest and hips pulling her in a circle. Her hands floated above her head in fluid movements. Slowly, she worked herself into a frenzy until the sudden explosion of rhythmic stomping jolted my core. Her baile (dance) was at once passionate, graceful, and violent. The musicians behind her wailed and clapped and strummed as if to stir her even more. That night I experienced something intensely raw and beautiful. It was only the first of many incredible experiences during my trip to Spain the summer of 2019.
Spain has always been on our bucket list, and when our long-time friends suggested we travel there together, we jumped at the chance. My connection to Spain is rooted in an ancestral and musical heritage. A genetic test that I took recently revealed that 20% of my DNA could be traced to Spain and Portugal. As we began to map out our journey, I realized that our itinerary had been unknowingly predestined years ago when I was an undergraduate music major in college. My piano professor suggested that I listen to the music of Spanish composers Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz to inspire me. Since then, my musical life has never been the same and I have learned several of their pieces.