It was 11:40 and the line was already snaking around the corner. This was lucky for the four of us: there’s no sign above the door and we may not have otherwise found Casa Anselma, where locals and others crowd for La Rumbla Flamenca in Sevilla.
Round midnight the doors opened. Magellan joined the lineup for the bar while Pat, who is six-feet tall, forged ahead to the large group gathered at the small entrance to the seated area. Pat motioned to Dallas and I to join him. Elbow-to-elbow, people were seated in front of little tables facing the tiny stage. We could see Magellan waving and gesturing “what do you want to drink” so Pat went over to convey our orders. Dallas and I waited in line. At the front of the line, her arms crossed surveying the bunch of us, was a wiry little Señora about our age dressed in slacks and a loose top. (We called her Anselma but later found out she was not.) Despite her diminutive frame, she was in charge, the no-nonsense gatekeeper with absolute authority.
We don’t speak Spanish, but it was clear that a woman ahead of us was pleading for two seats—and it was easy to translate Señora’s hurried bursts of words and gestures into “Not a chance.” The woman left. Others sheepishly retreated to the packed standup area, their pleas for seats dismissed by Señora. It didn’t look like there were any seats left but we were getting closer to Señora so this was no time to give up.
Next up were two middle-aged attractive women dressed in flamenco costumes. Surprise—Señora hugged them both and waved them in. Then it was our turn. Silently, she looked us over. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t say a word. “How many?” she quizzed. “Four please,” I answered. “I see only three,” she quipped. “My husband is buying our drinks,” I said pointing to Magellan at the bar. “Follow me,” Señora beckoned, leading us to the stage to chairs facing the audience. We were squeezed in so tight the shirtsleeve of one of the guitar players on stage beside me kept rubbing against my bare arm. “What did you say to her that got us in?” Pat asked, incredulous that we’d gotten seats. “I have no idea,” I said, “maybe because I said so little she let us in.”
Magellan returned with beer mugs filled with the strongest G&Ts I’ve ever tasted. By now it was 12:30 and the three guitarists sitting beside us on stage began to play and sing. Señora signaled the pair of women who’d been ahead of us in line to the stage. Their sexy flamenco dance was rewarded with lots of applause. Another woman Señora selected from the crowd got up to sing, holding the stage longer than the polite audience may have wished judging by our clear view of their faces. We figured out a possible reason why Señora let us in when we looked at the seated audience in front of us—there’s no cover charge and only half of the crowd had drinks in front of them. Eventually Señora herself took to the stage to belt out moody verses of ancient flamenco songs. Warming up, the crowd began to sing along at her command.
In this packed room under the lights of the stage and fueled by the potent G&Ts, we were really warming up. I’d noticed Dallas looking uncomfortable and ready to leave for some time. But seeing how much we were enjoying the place, she had been quietly polite. Besides, it was going to be tricky to exit the stage. Her face lit up and her long legs practically ran from the stage the second Magellan said, “Shall we go?”
As we waited for a cab in the pouring rain (they don’t expect anyone to be leaving Anselma’s at 1:45), Dallas shared her fears. “I thought you guys would never leave. It was harder to get out of there than it was to get in,” she said. “Sitting on that stage, I was so afraid she was going to force us to get up and sing and dance,” she said.
Casa Anselma, Calles Pagés del Corro, 49, Triana, Seville. No website, no reservations, no sign above the door, no cover. Opens at midnight most nights except when it doesn’t. Arrive early.