Allow me to tell you a bit about Akiko, one of the many inspiring people I’ve met during my time here in Jerez. Not too long ago Akiko began taking classes in Japan from Harumi, an incredibly graceful flamenco dancer from Osaka who básicamente seems to have mastered las Bulerías de Jerez…she even co-teaches with Ana María López in la Peña los Cernícalos when she is in town. But back to Akiko. She had been studying flamenco for a few years before she encountered Harumi. That is when things took a turn for her, flamenco things that is. She began learning about the cante and how it related to the dance, about how to do palmas and about las Bulerías de Jerez. She was exposed to a flamenco that went far beyond just choreography. She was introduced to an essence, and she was intrigued.
Harumi went to Jerez for an extended period of time leaving Akiko without a teacher. Golden Week, the big holiday in Japan was coming up. The Friday before her vacation began it quite suddenly occurred to Akiko to go to Jerez as well, so she got online to investigate plane tickets. By the time she’d logged off, she had purchased an e-ticket to Spain, set to leave in just four days! Then it hit her, “What in the world did I just do?” Harumi was shocked when Akiko contacted her saying she would be there on Tuesday. Her family thought she was nuts, but somehow Akiko knew it was what she needed.
I met her on a Wednesday in bulerías class. She did not dance, just watched and did some palmas. “Why don’t you dance?” I asked her. “No, no, no! I don’t!” she declared looking at me like I was a crazy person. On Friday when I got to the peña there she was on the dance floor learning the steps from Carmen along with everyone else. That Sunday a group of us took the bus to Sanlúcar de Barrameda to attend a benefit for earthquake victims of Japan that Harumi was performing in. We arrived around noon when the performance was set to start. Preparations were still in the beginning stages, and the singer and guitarist were nowhere to be found. In other words, we had time to kill. The others went to a bar to have a copita, but Akiko and I decided to go exploring, to see the town where manzanilla comes from and to see if we could find the ocean. Y entonces nos dimos un paseo, and I learned her story…
Akiko had purchased her ticket on a whim because something inside told her to. She was fascinated by what she had learned thus far from Harumi regarding bulerías and felt called to come to the source and find out what it was really all about. “I just wanted to see the atmosphere of bulerías. I never imagined to join the class at all. Suddenly this idea (to fly to Jerez) came into my head and made a lot of people, including Harumi, surprised…” We walked and talked for a while longer then made our way back to the venue in time for the performance.
After her solo, Harumi invited students and friends to come and dance a bulerías. Akiko came over to me. “Laura, you should go up there. You need to make a memory,” she told me. Are you kidding me?! Get up on a stage in Andalucía and dance flamenco? I was far too afraid. Moments later, as the show was just about to end, Akiko hopped out of her chair and headed toward the stage. She slipped herself in between Ofelia and Harumi and, almost before I could blink, there she was, in Sanlúcar, on a stage, in front of a crowd of Españoles, dancing bulerías to the cante a Jerezano who’d had at least one to many glasses of fino. Akiko, who had been studying flamenco for less than four years, and Bulerías de Jerez for only a few months, who had taken only one class here in Spain, got up there and just went for it. And it was fantástico.
She came back and sat next to me, “I wasn’t planning on doing it, but I had to make a memory.“