Flamenco Puro

By Ruth Guthartz
Tuesday December 23, 2008 - 10:14:00 AM

Because the seasons changed early that year, I chose an early spring cleaning. Armed with large plastic bags, a brown cardboard carton and a dust cloth, I tackled my bedroom closet. Determined to be sensible and unsentimental, I started by tossing away much of the footwear.  

Then I lifted each hanger off the horizontal rod and checked each piece of clothing: Did I want to keep it or discard it? No matter that I recalled people, places and events tied to each; no matter that I almost cried at times, that I laughed or sighed about some of the recollections. I placed the discards in the plastic bag before moving on to the next item. And there in the crush of skirts at one side of the closet, there was a red sweatshirt. It looked clean, and had a cozy and comfortable feel when I rubbed it against my cheek. A closer look at the woman who danced across the shirt’s front revealed her long black, low-necked and ruffled dress; below her feet, yellow letters spelled out in large uneven letters, “Flamenco Puro.” Yes, yes, pure flamenco.  

The soft cotton shirt in my hand, I sat down on the floor and recalled the San Francisco performance that the troupe from Broadway, had given in—was it ’87? or possibly ’88? My son David and I, along with several of the local flamenco company, Flamenco Vivo, for which he’s the guitarist, had been part of the large audience who snapped our fingers, cheered, called out “Ole” stamped our feet, clapped palmas and yelled out Spanish phrases to encourage the dancers. Everyone joined in the excitement that evening; the music, the dancers and the cantaor aroused all of us. Close to frenzy, the atmosphere echoed off the walls of the theater. At the intermission, milling about in the lobby, we passed a table where colorful fans, programs and sweatshirts were on sale. That was where David bought this sweatshirt for me.  

The memorable performance over, David, the dancers Sarita, Ricardo, Alicia, Carla and others of the local Flamenco Vivo company, along with me, made our way to a bar to round out the evening. After reviewing the performance, enjoying gossip and laughter, and after one piña colada, I looked forward to home and a good night’s sleep.  

With my cat curled up beside me, I reflected on that spine-tingling evening. Was it the music and dance? The alcohol? Or Ricardo? Or was it the never before-known aspirations for the stage, the cravings to be in the spotlight that produced my dream? Decades after Flamenco Puro’s performance, the red sweatshirt in my lap, I recalled my dream that night, that dream when I danced with Ricardo the flamenco dancer. 

Ricardo: tall, jet-black wavy hair, swarthy and lean. He wore a white ruffled, tapered shirt with a brief black vest over it. High-waisted black trousers hugged his narrow hips. Not a wrinkle, not a crease marred the perfection of fit between suit and body. Shiny black, low-heeled shoes completed the ensemble of light and dark. It reflected the music itself: a hidden guitarist’s strings called up the haunting folk music of Madrid, Toledo and Seville, alternately lively, even wild, and sometimes cheerfully breezy but always heart-breaking. 

When Ricardo twirled, turned his back to me, I saw his firm, fetching buttocks. I thought he might have been carved of stone, they looked so hard. 

So there I was, up on the stage with him, wearing a long colorful dress with a low-cut, revealing bodice, spinning, whirling and clicking tipos, (that is, snapping my fingers) and clicking my heels in time to the music’s rhythm. Ricardo sang some of the lyrics to a ballad as we smiled at one another, turned away and returned, over and over again. I felt breathless, the sweat pooled at my hairline, I heard voices calling out “Ole.” 

The drumming of our heels, the music’s passionate beat, the clapping of unseen spectators rose to a crescendo. Dizzy, I reached for Ricarrdo to steady myself. My fingers groped, wanting to clutch at his waist but there was no give to hang onto. I clawed at the air until my hand slid down. I tried to clutch those bewitching buns but they were so tight, not even Sir Edmund Hilary could have gotten hold of that polished marble sculpture. I stumbled and moaned softly, ready to fall into a heap at Ricardo’s feet. But he seized my arm, swept me up toward him for a second, then flung me across the stage into the wings where I landed on my feet. 

And woke up on the floor with my cat licking my face. I laughed at my one-night dream tryst with Ricardo. 

Sitting on my bedroom floor, the red sweatshirt on my lap, I wonder where Flamenco Puro is and I think of Ricardo. It’s been many years since I’ve seen him but I still think of him fondly. And now decades later, I look back at that woman who dreamed of being a flamenco dancer for one night, who only in her dreams could put that into action. I put away the red sweatshirt. I’d save it for a grandchild.