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Monday, July 22, 2013


THERE IS A SCENE early in my novel, The Tattooed Witch, where one of my characters, Joachín de Rivera is in a Spanish inn where flamenco is played and danced.  Because he's new in town and knows a different style of dance than what the locals do, he's persuaded to perform. In the book, how well a man dances is equated with how well he makes love. I have no idea if this applies in the real world.

It dawned on me that many folks who aren't familiar with flamenco, may not realize how precise, passionate, and emotive this form of dance is. Joaquin Cortes has a rock star-like fame in Spain and in many parts of the world. This YouTube clip shows him performing with the same kind of passion that I think my Joachín would in The Tattooed Witch. The clip runs 9:05 minutes. If you want to watch less, start watching at the 5:30 mark.

To go along with the clip, here's a small portion from The Tattooed Witch where my Joachín performs as the real Joaquin Cortes might today. The Taltell isn't the name of a real flamenco palo. I chose to manufacture the name rather than use a real one. The current names for the styles of flamenco have only been around since the 1800's. The Tattooed Witch takes place in and around 1550. From The Tattooed Witch, Chapter Eight:

“I want to see a Taltell,” Carmella demanded as the girl danced. “I’ve never seen one.” She pointed at Joachín. “He says he can do it!” Her claim brought shouts of encouragement from the crowd. Carmella pulled him to his feet. Inez glared at her, but she didn’t object.
“I’m out of practice,” Joachín said. “I haven’t danced in awhile.”
“Show us how it’s done!” A stout fisherman clapped him on the back. He was one of the ones who had nearly won himself a kick to the chin. “Carmella’s stale. She needs new tricks!” Roars of laughter rose about him. Carmella lunged at him and missed.
“I don’t dance on tables.” His mother had done that. He refused to do it on principle.
“Clear him a space!” Tables were pushed aside to make room. The dark girl was shooed away. Joachín looked to Inez for support.
“Go!” she shouted, giving in to the crowd’s enthusiasm. “It doesn’t matter if you dance like an ox. It’ll give them something to talk about.”
He wasn’t much comforted by her encouragement, but he wasn’t so drunk that he couldn’t dance either. He thought of Estrella, his mother. She’d been the best dancer in Taleda, had taught him how to dance before their lives fell apart. He couldn’t afford to be unworthy of her. Let him dance in her memory.
“I see I’m outnumbered,” he said. The crowd crowed in approval. He turned to the guitarists. “Can you give me a measure in repeating eights? Something like a march, in a minor key?”
The middle guitarist strummed a few notes. “Something like this?”
Joachín nodded, took his place in the circle they had made for him. The crowd quieted. He looked down at his feet, hoping it would all come back. How ironic that he should remember his mother in a place like this. But he wouldn’t think of that, now. She was his mother, first and foremost, beautiful and talented, before she turned whore. She’d done what she had to keep them alive.
He let a few bars go by. Then slowly, he brought up his arms and snapped his fingers to the beat, his feet stepping to the entrada, the opening. Knuckling the tables or clapping their palms, the crowd took up the rhythm, their accompaniment insistent and martial. He added to it, his toes and heels beating first in time, then in counter-time. As his body remembered, his confidence built. He held himself tightly, always keeping the basic tempo but experimenting with doubles and triplets. Soon, there were gasps from the crowd. He executed a series of sharp turns, and then, when he could hold back no longer, he exploded into a flurry of footwork. He thought of the scarred priest and his mother. His feet hammered into the floor. A mug dropped, and he smashed it beneath his heels, his face florid as he ground it to dust. Finally, after an execution so rapid that the crowd could barely follow it, he came to an abrupt halt. He stood, panting heavily. Then he slapped his chest, a gesture telling them that he was done, but he bowed before no man.
The crowd surged to their feet and howled their approval. Hands clapped him on the back. They entreated him for more. Carmella screamed and reached for him, but Inez was there, sliding into his arms. “Where did you learn to dance like that?” she asked, leaning into his ear. She smelled of oranges.
“My mother.” He ached at the thought of her. His passion lay too close to the skin.
“You must teach me to dance like that,” Inez murmured. “Later. Tonight.”
And he knew she wasn't speaking of dance at all.


  1. Bravo! Not for the first time, no doubt not for the last, your writing moved me to tears. Absolutely wonderful.

  2. Thanks so much, Jena. That means a lot. I'm so glad you liked it. :-)