Monday, November 12, 2007

Las Carboneras

It was an efficient noise. Holding up her skirt, the sound travelled easily through the noise of bar glasses and house music: a rapid toe strike lightninged to the sole, moving her foot backward, finishing in a slide that hung lazily in the air.

Somehow, there were three beats to it. Her friends watched her foot and tried to recreate it. Tac, tac. Tac, tac.

Slower, the effort showed through the careful professionalism of fresh stage make-up and crisp dresses.

Tac, tac. Tac-tac. They laughed and asked her to show them again.

The start was so fast that the foot looked detached from her body. Three beats. Three beats. The sound and the form consistent, unhesitating. The other two held their skirts in their hands, eyes trained on her foot, their own beginning to mimic its motions, when the house lights began to fade and all three let their smiles and hems drop, lined up, and walked purposefully to the small center stage.

The crowd watched intently as the shapes of two microphones, three full dresses, two guitars, and one man in a light suit grouped themselves in two rows. For several minutes the darkness continued, the waiting silence growing louder and louder. Just as the anticipation reached a restless tension the stage lights grew large and burned the dancers into view, the dark dissolving into the shadows of the dancers and suit jackets of the guitarists.

Flamenco, for all of its color and fury, begins slowly, sad chords walking along the frets and trickling to the ground, the dancer dipping a toe into the puddles the sound makes.

The two guitarists huddled together on the stage's right hand wing, watching each other as much as the dancer, who walked purposefully to center, her face torn with emotion. The words of the song leapt over the gutiars' melody, and the sound of her shoes snapping the stage grew louder and louder. There was a switch from minor to major, and she began to move faster, swirling in circles, her feet beating out a complicated rhythm, arms reaching for the air and for attention. Jumping up she slapped her thighs on the way back down, head dipping down and then rising, her body still in its curve, switching her hips back and forth. The song ended, and in the silence, she started to clap her own rhythm, her two friends catching on and taking it up, yelling their approval, motioning to the guitarists to pick it up too. Everyone on stage settled in to watch, entranced, while she moved from subtle to extraordinary, turning in circles that didn't seem in time to the music, leaping just in time to catch the beat, drawing her arm across her stomach and leaving it on her hip as though to ask "Can you feel it? Look at me- aren't I captivating? Have you had enough? More? Can you follow me?"

The rhythm reached an uncomfortable pace, too fast to follow how the dance joined it, sweat dancing along her forehead- she picked up her skirt to show her feet, moving so fast they jolted her along in tiny steps. She raised her arms, her hands working through the air, feet still moving and spun into her chair, pulling her arms inward over her head, her face calm, her chest heaving.

The bar exploded in applause as the lights softened out, leaving the old singer in the back row smiling at the dancer, and raising his two hands in approval.

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