There is an immediate hush when the guitarist and singer step onto the stage, as strings of lights illuminate the name Café del Duende. We are all here for the same thing: to experience one of the most authentic flamenco shows in Valencia. The smell of incense hangs in the warm air, and a single red carnation lays across our table, illuminated by a flickering candle. We wait, a small and intimate audience, for the magic to begin.
Café del Duende has been capturing audiences and evoking emotion with the duende of flamenco for more than two decades. With around two dozen in the audience close enough to see every aspect of the performance, and a €15 entry fee that includes a drink of your choice, it is easy to see why it has remained popular. Your free drink could be a beer, wine, or soft drink, but I recommend their sangria – ice cold and delicious.
There is no online booking for this experience, so arrive a little earlier than doors open to buy your ticket, especially if you want one of the coveted seats at the tables in front of the stage, rather than perching at the bar. You’ll want the best view you can get of twirling flamenco skirts and passionate singing.
There is an energy to the movements and vocalisations of the dancers here, “¡eso es, cántalo!”, their swirling skirts, costume changes, and bright barrettes. It is rare to see a dancer dance any hair clip off in a performance, let alone the three Aloma de Balma flings across the stage in her energetic turns, dancing her hair out of her bun. Manuela la Jara, with her eyes fixed on an imaginary horizon, her strength in striking and holding a beautiful pose, and the speed and power of her foot movements, also draws the audience in. For a few moments, the guitar and raspy emotional singing fades away. In the silence, only the dancer’s breathing could be heard, the dragging and movement of their feet. On the wall beside the stage, a poem about flamenco is painted, with the final line reading ‘soul, poetry, art, FLAMENCO’.
This is not a show made diluted for tourists. There is something human and raw in flamenco performances like the ones at Café del Duende, something living and vital that photos and videos don’t capture. Several moments gave me goosebumps, and I couldn’t help but clap along. The dancers and musicians live in that moment with you, put their soul into it. I have never left a performance with my face hurting so much from smiling.
At the crescendo of the final performance, the audience was so drawn into the spirit of the show that we threw all the red carnations from our tables onto the stage in congratulations and thanks. After the stage lights had dimmed, and the hanging paper lantern lights had returned, none of us moved from our seats, all waiting with the hope that they would return to the stage, and we could feel captured by their performance once more. The feeling of duende is elusive and difficult to describe. If you want to experience it, well, you’ll have to visit Café del Duende yourself.
Report and photography by Julia McGee-Russell
Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’
‘Café del Duende’ photo copyright Julia McGee-Russell /24/7 Valencia
CAFÉ DEL DUENDE
Show Times: Thursday (21:30h-22:30h), Friday (22:00h-23:00h), Saturday (22:00h-23:00h), Sunday (20:00h-21:00h).
Doors open an hour before starting time.
Address: Calle Turia, 62
Contact: +34 630 455 289