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Rediscovering La Presy, San Antonio's gift to flamenco



La Presy in Granada, the "Comanche Indian" that became a "Sacromonte gypsy."

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At El Poco Loco, mid-to-late 60s. El Curro is on guitar.

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Guerrero is widely recognized as one of Spain's top young flamenco bailaoras, and Bello released a gorgeous, flamenco-flavored jazzy, self-penned album entirely dedicated to La Presy. Even without her students' success, La Presy had secured her own legacy as a genuine, well-respected and admired maestra. But seeing Lara and Patricia shine adds further vindication for a woman who gave everything she had to honor flamenco.

"She taught me everything a guitarist needs to know to accompany a bailaora," said Mesa Martínez, her guitarist. "But especially, she taught me how to understand flamenco in a special way."

That Andalusian thing

Flamenco is a tricky thing. Among its fans there's always the purist party-pooper who dismisses any foreign attempts as "not as good as those in Andalusia." As if only a gypsy could truly have duende (the "it" necessary to truly feel flamenco).

"People often think that maybe you have to have fingers swollen from picking potatoes to be able to play the guitar with feeling," once said Enrique Morente (1942-2010), one of the greatest cantaores ever. "Look, picking potatoes is every bit as worthy as playing a guitar. But I can tell you that a man with fine, sensitive fingers is not going to be able to make a go of picking potatoes. And I can also tell you that a man with fingers swollen from picking potatoes is not going to be able to play a guitar because he hasn't got the manual dexterity and he hasn't got the dedication. This is a profession like any other which you have to dedicate yourself to completely. It is an art of professionals."

La Presy was a professional, and she gave it all to earn the endorsement of people like Manolete himself, a man who will have none of that sectarian, exclusivistic take on the art.

"I've been in six national ballets and I know what I'm talking about," says Manolete. "We all have the same blood and the same heart. No matter where we are from. Anybody can dance flamenco, just like I can dance classical. What you do with it, it's up to you. If you just want to make money, you won't achieve anything. But if you take it seriously, you can be like La Presy. She was a good dancer and a very good teacher. She was loved by all because of her teachings and because, simply, she was a good, genuine person."

"We can't say she was one of Spain's best dancers, because she wasn't," said Juan Pinilla, who wrote the Granada Hoy obituary. "But, in Granada, she was one of the biggest dancers and definitely one of its greatest teachers. She was very, very important. As a flamenco critic I can tell you this — if she had taken her Granada momentum and gone to Madrid, she could've been as good as any other bailaora."

"She was well-respected by people like [bailaor] Mario Maya [1937-2008], Manolete, and [cantaor] Curro Albaicín," said Mesa Martínez, her guitarist. "She was known, but her artistic level and reputation were bigger than her popularity."

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