Classes with Regla Ortega
While studying with El Estampio, I began lessons during that summer with Regla Ortega. She had been recommended by Custodia Romero. It was a good decision as I was able to see the feminine style from a woman.
Regla was a petite woman with an open and friendly personality. She welcomed me warmly and eagerly set about teaching me her Solea which I had chosen as the dance I wanted to learn. Although I had already performed this type of dance and knew something of its essence, to actually study it with a Spanish dancer whose heritage was pure Andalusian was very valuable.
Her guitarist was her partner, and they had been together for years. The dance was beautiful and elegant in its variations, and I was able to absorb it easily. The heel patterns were not very difficult and it had some distinctive arm movements which I always remembered. Regla seemed preoccupied at times. She would enter the studio fanning herself with her fan and appeared distracted although always full of energy. It was a magical time for me.
One of the outstanding parts of the experience was the presence of a relative of Regla’s, a cousin, Luisa Ortega. She and her mother watched my class everyday with interest as I danced and learned. She was a singer, a cupletista, a popular artist who sang theater songs and danced along with the vocals such as I had seen many times in Spanish shows. Luisa and her mom seemed fascinated with me, perhaps because I was an American studying in Spain but they also appeared to enjoy my work. Luisa was also taking lessons from Regla to improve her dancing style. Luisa looked very good when she danced; her enormous dark eyes and tall figure enhanced the movements in an inimitable way. We had a limited conversation, but I soaked up the atmosphere because she was there watching. Her father, Manolo Caracol came in one day to visit. He was the famed cantaor and an illustrious member of the Ortega family, a cousin. Many years later I was to find out more about this family though the granddaughter of Regla.
One day, when I was out walking on the Gran Via. I saw Regla and she greeted me with enthusiasm. She said she had two tickets to a performance at the Fontalban theater close by and would I join her? I immediately agreed. As we walked she decided to drop into a café on the street and we joined a group of real gypsies who were local performers. They all talked a great deal and Regla herself remarked that Spanish people talked a lot. It was an interesting interlude.
When we did meet at the theater that evening, Regla had her ever-present fan as we sat together talking in our seats. She commented that the flamenco singer came out too much meaning that he seemed to perform more than was necessary. While in the theater I saw two dancers I knew from concerts I did in the states. They were the famous Antonio Albaicin and his partner and wife, Muguet. They remembered me and we exchanged some greetings.
Somehow, the Soleares were never finished. I did learn enough to supplement my knowledge of the form and it was a rich experience for me.
Years later, as fate would have it; the granddaughter of Regla Ortega contacted me to inquire about me and my study with her grandmother. By this time I had acquired a computer and regularly went online to “blog” about my experiences in Spain and contacts with my teachers. This woman, Maria Estevez, a journalist emailed me, saying she wanted to meet me. She was planning to write a book about Regla but finally abandoned the idea because her father did not approve. Subsequently, I met most of the family in Maria’s home. They welcomed me warmly, and I was honored to be their guest.
I will never forget Regla Ortega. Although my study with her was actually brief, I derived much from her work and personality. It is a treasured memory.