With a number of very nice workshop offered in Switzerland this summer, I had difficulty choosing which to take. But it was hard to pass up the one with Joaquín Grilo at the ADEM. When I heard he would teach soleá, it was impossible to miss. He did not disappoint. As an added bonus, we had excellent accompaniment by Cristo Cortes and Anton Fernandez.
What you see from Joaquín Grilo on stage is what you get in the course. His dancing is marked by quiet moments of finesse interspersed with explosions of power. It’s no accident that Paco de Lucia always wanted him on his tour to give the cuadro incredible timing and energy, whether Grilo was dancing, doing palmas or playing cajon. For the rhythms, there’s no one better.
Grilo started the first class with palmas by making the joke of counting compas in an excessively low voice, like a slowed down record. (If you know what a record player is!!) This is a perfect explanation of soleá: if you think your compas is really slow, do it slower!! I love this because it seems that hardly anyone does soleá anymore. Everything is fast and furious. But the jondo palos are the core of flamenco. To dance to them is to truly understand how the dance disappears into the music. The dance does not drive the music but is merely one part of the musically form.
Grilo’s soleá has the sparseness needed to really be respectful of the palo. With Grilo you get tricky rhythms, but he will not overload the compas as a show of virtuosity. Especially in the soleá letra, the steps are downright simple. As they should be. But don’t for a moment think that means it’s easy! It requires so much patience and concentration not to out run the cante. Grilo drilled us a lot on simple steps that he wanted to us to execute with power and resonance as opposed to making sharp, frenetic accents.
One thing with Grilo’s choreography (all palos) is that you never have a moments rest. It is so tightly wound. You think you can lightly slide a waltz step. Not a chance! He’s going to want you to mark that clearly. But don’t mistake that for always being loud. Just watch his dancing! He uses incredible dynamic range. It’s hard to imagine a better teacher for soleá. You are asked to submit to a slow, deliberate compas but be ready powerful accents or lightning, insane rhythms.
Another note about Grilo’s rhythms: I cannot explain them. He does sequences that begin neither on the compas nor on the contratiempo! They’re always coming in earlier than you expect or later than you expect. They are infernal and they are fabulous! It’s really a treat to get an inside look on those rhythms and see if you can follow and absorb the soniquetes. You can’t understand them, but they are always anchored to the compas. Grilo continually lectured and drilled us about how the compas must to be absorbed deep inside our inner core. Even when the footwork is playing around the compas, the compas is always present.
I won’t lie to you, class with Grilo can be intense. The faint of heart may get their feelings hurt every now and again. He expects a lot of you. But there are plenty of moments of good energy and joking. The dance and musical material he offers is not to be missed. It’s really a great opportunity to learn some very essential things about flamenco. Everything hangs on the compas. There is no dance without the music. The music demands precision. With that yields pure power and joy.