Fire light dances. Guitars thrum with melancholic voice. A hand drum raps a staccato rhythm. A woman, chin lifted, swishes forward. Shapely bare arms float upward. Pause … Clap! Heeled feet arch … Stamp! The guitar cries, the singer laments, the woman in red satin swirls, rhythms and pulses race.
Every so often an event takes you by surprise, captures your breath, sets your senses spinning, dancing, imploring for more, and yet more. Such was Flamenco Night at the Panamonte Inn & Spa in Boquete, Panama, a Charlie Collins tour de force of wine, culinary excellence and exotic, intimate entertainment.
September 15, 2012, the Panamonte El Salto Lounge was transformed into a traditional Spanish “juerga” – a venue for music, dance, drink, food and “duende”– the spirit of Flamenco. Candles, fires in the great fireplaces, polished wood and brass, fresh red roses, and impeccable wait staff pouring five different Spanish vintages: this provided the backdrop to showcase Chef Charlie Collins’ Spanish cuisine tasting menu of 8 exquisite Andalusian dishes. Each offering of wine and food was beautifully presented and satisfied all the senses – touching the soul of the gourmet in each guest, just as the flamenco guitar and voice touched the soul of the poet in each.
Flamenco music and dance has a history woven from the threads of human suffering, longing, despair, grief and passionate love…a tapestry of instrumental sound, sensual movement, and the cry of voices that tell stories at once profoundly personal and completely universal.
“The essential mood … is one of despair and tortured emotions. This pena negra, or black sorrow, can be expressed merely by the mournful repetition of the word Ay! (It can be) described as singing of ‘pains without possible consolation, wounds that will never close, crimes without human redemption… the lament of the earth that will never be the sky, the sea that knows no limits, the good-bye eternal, forever.’ It is the exposure of one’s soul stripped bare.” (Geoff Alexander, 1986).
Flamenco is not just music. “Flamenco is…music, dance…it is a way of living…intensely!!” So says, Fernando E. Guicciardi, lead guitarist for Solera Flamenca, the group from Panama City who transported all of us for the evening to the fire camps of the Spanish gypsies. Flamenco music is one of the most technically demanding musical art forms. It’s history goes deep into Spanish history and combines the influences of Moors, Arabs, Jews, Gypsies and the Andalusian settlers. Flamenco guitarists study for years, decades, a lifetime to capture the intricacies of the music. The songs spring from the deepest wells of human experience and even the happy ones express the pena negra. Lyrics anguish over love lost due to death or desertion. Then, there are the dancers. Elegant women in flowing skirts who take the stage, lift their chins, gaze far into the night, raise an arm in graceful serpentine beckoning, then punctuate the tension with a foot stamp before swirling to the guitars pulsing tempo.
Intense. Oh yes. It was intense. It was magical. It was mesmerizing. It was a time out of time, a place out of place. It was a gypsy juerga, right here in Boquete, Panama. And that was BEFORE members of the intimate audience were invited to join the dancers on stage and experience for themselves a moment of trans formative ‘duende.’
Charlie Collins once again provided his guests at The Panamonte Inn & Spa an evening of world class wines, out of this world cuisines, and magical entertainment. He does this regularly—and Boquete, Panama, and all his guests are the richer for it. Viva flamenca!