MADRID, SPAIN. There is little better way to spend a summer’s evening in Madrid than by watching the mesmerizing feet of flamenco dancers in front of the Palacio Real as the sun sets behind and the stars appear. This is exactly what the festival ‘Veranos de la Villa’ offers throughout the summer as a series of concerts are held in the Sabatini Gardens with predominantly a flamenco theme. The festival extends to indoor venues, too: Matadero Madrid, Conde Duque and CentroCentro Cibeles, catering to all tastes — music, theatre, dance, cinema.

Joaquín Cortés’s Gitano was a natural choice to begin the concerts in the Sabatini Gardens. A classically trained ballet and flamenco dancer hailing from Córdoba, Cortés’s career spans film and stage and has acquired international recognition. Intended to be the “journey of [his] life”, Cortés takes the audience through a range of styles of music and dance, from classical, to contemporary to flamenco. At times the music adopted a big band style and at other times, it came back to its Spanish roots.

It was the team as a whole, under Cortés’s direction, that made the spectacle such a success. A group of female dancers and musicians, including guitarists, a saxophonist, trumpeter, cellist and violinist, accompanied six flamenco singers who together brought the atmosphere to the stage. The production was simple, with basic costumes and lighting, but against the natural setting, anything more complicated would have been a distraction. It is flamenco’s raw emotion, after all, that makes it so beautiful.

Each art form was given a chance to take center stage. When the music was silenced, Cortés stole the attention with his footwork and eye-catching spins and, likewise, while the dancers were resting the flamenco singers came forward.

This particular evening, natural lighting in the form of lightning added to the backdrop and, unfortunately, as the concert neared its finale, rain brought an abrupt ending to the proceedings as small drops grew to a heavy shower. With a stage open to the elements, the continuation could potentially have been disastrous for performers who had already covered their instruments for protection. This did not deter the audience’s enthusiasm as they still rose to give a standing ovation as Cortés impressed to the very end, leaving the stage soaked in rainwater.

A principally Spanish audience gave the whole evening an aura of authenticity and the encouraging shouts of ‘¡Olé!’ from the audience confirmed that they knew that what they were watching was good and they liked it. ‘Veranos de la Villa’ in the Sabatini Gardens is a brilliant summer alternative to the touristy flamenco tablaos and offers a chance to enjoy the enchantment of Madrid at night.