Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Art of Flamenco

Flamenco is not just a dance or the clothes or the music. It's the feeling. It gives you a certain sexy buzz when you let the music go through you. Poetic, intense, passionate, is how I describe the Flamenco
When I saw my first flamenco dance in Seville, I was hooked. I went several more times whilst living in Barcelona. It is not that I wished to be a flamenco dancer, it was being immersed in the whole theatre of it all. The vibrant foot moves, the elegant hand movements and the expressions on their faces that had me of course the flamboyant dresses. 

The history of Flamenco has only been documented for the past two hundred years or so, and anything prior to this time is open to debate. It is thought to have been born in the 18th century through the Romani(gypsy) people of Spain in the southern region of Andalusia. One thing we can be sure of is that flamenco in its original form was only voice, a cry or chant accompanied only by the rhythm which would be beaten out on the floor by a wooden staff or cane.
These styles are known as Palo Secos, or dry styles, and they are the oldest forms of song known today. 
The flamenco is a highly expressive music and dance movement with various elements to it. It is a combination of singing(cante), guitar playing(toque), dance(baile), and hell raising(jaleo) which involves the hand clapping(palmas), foot stomping, finger snapping and shouts of encouragement. The dance itself is a solo performance, characterised by hand clapping, percussive footwork, and graceful hand, arm and body movements. It is a deeply passionate dance which you can see on the face of the dancers(bailaores or bailaoras): expressions of suffering, love and pain.

A dancer will often stand still and free of any expression for the first few moments of the song. As he or she begins to feel the music, the dancer usually begins a steady beat of loud hand clapping. Then as the emotion builds, the dancer will begin the intense dance. Castanets are sometimes held for clicking, and folding fans used on occasion for visual impact. 
 Jose Maya
The hand clapping is an art in itself, and although it may look easy, it is not. If you have ever watched a flamenco dance, you will see the clapper(palmeros) to the side weaving intricate rhythms around the song and collaborating cleverly with the dancer.
The zapateado is the tap dance style of footwork, where the dancers demonstrate the skill with their feet. The noise created by this and the palmeros will be ringing in your ears long after you have left the Tablao. 
Flamboyant Flamenco fashions
When the gypsies arrived in Andalusia from India in the 15th century, they brought with them many song, dance and fashion styles that have strong Indian connections. At this time Andalusia was still under Arab rule, and along with the Jews and the Moors, the gypsies were soon to be persecuted by the Catholics.
Strict laws, restrictions and persecutions resulted in many gypsies, Jews and Moors taking refuge in the mountain areas. These different cultures lived in relative harmony for many years, and the fusion of their music and dances are what we know today as flamenco.
In the eighteenth century attitude towards the gypsies changed considerably,which resulted in numerous bands of gypsies descending on the small villages and towns, bringing with them their exciting, seductive music- flamenco. The rest is history. 
Carmen Amaya
There have been quite a few famous Flamenco dancers over time.One that stands out is Carmen Amaya, probably the most famous of her generation. Named Queen of the Gypsies: "She was from the race of the rebels, of those people who stray from the beaten track and ordinary rules, who only show that there is suffering in their dancing, like there is suffering in existence, and a rage for living. It is a dance that is marked by fire, whose thirst could only be quenched through death." Patrick Bensard, directore and founder of French Cinematheque of Dance. 
Joaquin Cortes
Although I have concentrated on female dancers/images here, the male dancers are just as spectacular to watch, some times even more. One famous modern dancer that comes to mind is Joaquin Cortes. Exceptional. 
It doesn't stop at these two. There are and have been many fantastic flamenco dancers. Some of my favourites are Antonio Gades, Luis de Luis, Jose Maya and Christina Hoyos. 

The dance is art and these photos show that. If you have had or have in the future, the pleasure of seeing a flamenco show live, you will know what I mean when I say, it is the "feeling'.

To finish off this post, please click on the youtube video link below and enjoy a series of flamenco dances from the Ballet Nacional de Espana. 

See you soon
Love Gessica 

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