Arts Society stages stirring flamenco commentary in English

Helen Sijsling narrates the flamenco demonstration.
Helen Sijsling narrates the flamenco demonstration. / PRINA EDENBURG
  • It is hoped that the Heartbeat of the South talk, recently performed in Nerja, will be given in Malaga, other parts of Andalucía and in the UK

The Nerja Arts Society attracted its biggest audience yet to a dynamic narrated talk held recently about the history and culture of flamenco.

Heartbeat of the South was presented by the Nerja society's chair, Helen Sijsling and performed by members of Antonio Guerra's flamenco company. Antonio and Pili Franco danced, while Rubén Portillo played the guitar and Rosa Linero sang.

More than 300 people packed into the town's cultural centre on Calle Granada to learn about the origins and rhythms of Andalucía's most popular performing art.

"It was all very emotional, twice as many people came as normal," said Sijsling after the event. "They all said it was the first time ever they had heard an explanation in English and we had a standing ovation, also for the first time ever," she said, visibly emotional.

While the performers demonstrated different types of singing, dancing, guitar and clapping techniques, Sijsling, who herself takes flamenco lessons with Guerra and Portillo, explained the components that make up a flamenco performance.

Flamenco dancer, Pili Franco, said, "I found the interaction with the audience very interesting. This speech isn't only to understand better flamenco but also so that they can be part of it. They learnt how to clap their hands in different rhythms and styles. Maybe they'll bring themselves to clap or just cheer 'olé!' on another occasion."

Future performances

A number of Arts Society members from along the Costa del Sol attended the talk, as well as visitors from the UK, with a view to holding it at other societies' meetings.

Sijsling hopes that they will be able to take it to the Teatro Cervantes in Malaga in 2020. The Nerja society is also working on another flamenco performance, focussing on 'malagueño' flamenco from the city and its villages.

A promotional video of the evening can be found on YouTube: Heartbeat of the South. For further information visit their website (