Although I am thousands of miles away, every April my heart goes right back to the dirt streets of Feria, where horses are ridden down temporary paths, skirts swish and drinks are poured by the dozen. I’ve never seen anything like it in person before – in the middle of nowhere on a massive abandoned lot in Seville, Spain, a pop-up tent city is erected and filled with traditional dancing, meals, music and lights that flicker until dawn.
Every year the massive archway, that is dozens of feet high, marks the entrance to the temporary chaos of Feria day and night (seen on the bottom right of the photo). The design is changed every year to highlight some of man’s accomplishments – when I was there in 2010, there was a nod to the birth of aviation.
The whole thing goes on for a week, with months to prepare. Women wear traditional flamenco-style dresses and the males often dress as horsemen. Families have their spot carved out for years and each clan owns a tent with a wooden platform to create their very own bar/restaurant/dance floor that’s invite-only. Everyone does the Sevillana, which is a kind of flamenco line dance that locals have mastered since birth, done in partners or in groups (usually just the girls). There are larger public tents for the common folk and tourists to enjoy, plus food vendors, live music, drinks and anything else you might need to throw a giant outdoor party. Not to mention the actual carnival for kids attached, complete with rides and coasters and plenty of bad 80s music to go around.
Who knew I would acquire a taste for “rebujito“, a supposedly cold drink almost always served warm, made of sherry and lemon-lime soda. After the third or seventeenth shooter though, it wasn’t so awful. It certainly helped get me on the dance floor more often than I would sans rebujito!
I had a dream that I was going to make a mini documentary about being an au pair in Seville someday and the wonders of Feria. It might still happen, but for now I think it’s time to unearth some of the footage I took while in the city.
For example, see below. Raquel, out faithful dance teacher, did the impossible – this poor girl took a room full of bumbling foreigners from a half-dozen different countries and turned us into passable Sevillana dancers. Here she is demonstrating how to use a shawl while moving to the rhythm.
The work paid off, as my friends and I were invited to a couple of private tents, allowing us to see how the locals do it and do it flawlessly. I later crashed my way through the steps in the public areas, but for that evening I simply watched in awe and wished I could absorb this infectious Spirit, or as they call it, “duende”.
With all this tradition floating around, making you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, it’s refreshing to be a little progress among the polka-dot ruffles and shots of sherry. These handsome gentlemen took the stage in one of the public tents and showed everyone up. Work. Bravo.
If you want to even dream about hitting Feria one of these days, plan way, way in advance. Unless you have an in or some friends who live in the city, accommodations are booked months in advance. I would suggest couch surfing or even a home swap/stay around that time, unless you have the cash to drop on an inflated hotel price. I was lucky to be an au pair living downtown at the time, sporting prime real estate near all the action.
In an upcoming post I’ll highlight the Holy Week too, which happens before Feria for the seven days leading up to Easter. Sevillanos do holidays right and shut down their entire city for parades, processions, food, partying and dancing until dawn. This is all BEFORE Feria too! Then I took off to Lagos, Portugal, for another party, but that’s another story.
Freelancer Tip #3: Listen, you are on the job even when you are not on the job. Of course enjoy your trips and live free, but don’t miss the chance to jot down some notes about a potential article angle or spend some time snapping well-composed landscape photos. Stay curious, even when home – you never know who will contact you about a lead or image request, so be constantly collecting and learning.