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The Art of Flamenco Dance

When I went to Granada for the first time, I, of course, went to see a Flamenco show, as does every tourist. I did enjoy it, but to be honest, it was because I laughed through the majority of the performance! To me, the singer sounded like he was having a nervous breakdown over some drama (my Spanish was not good enough to understand what he was singing), and the dancers had such stern faces and coupled with their vigorous stomping and clapping they made me giggle. Or did I giggle because their passionate display of emotion embarrassed me a little?

It wasn’t until I came to live in Spain, that I started to actually appreciate Flamenco more and more. To my surprise, I came to learn that there are many forms of Flamenco. For example, the Seguiriyas are a very serious form, talking about pent up hatred of persecution and often themes of death. On the other hand, there are the more light-hearted Sevillanas. These are two of many types of Flamenco music and dance, each having their own artists and peñas (Flamenco clubs).

The more traditional forms of Flamenco were brought to Spain around 1500 by the Gypsies (who emigrated from India). At that time, the Catholics had defeated the Moors and forbade anything which was not Catholic or in tune with Catholic norms and values. When the Gypsies arrived, they were unable to openly express their culture under the Catholic rule. Because of the situation they faced, the Gypsies began to express their suppression and suffering in their songs. This is the reason why traditional Flamenco is so sad and heartbreaking. During the 19th century, Flamenco slowly worked its way into the Andalucian culture. Over time, the Spaniards accepted the art form and began to perform it themselves, which continues on in today’s Flamenco dance performances, whose music roots are over 500 years old.

I thought I had Flamenco all figured out. Then one night in a club, dancing to pop music, it all changed. I suddenly noticed every Spaniard in the room throwing their arms up in the air, clapping, and ‘eating the apple’ (a Flamenco dance arm movement). I didn’t know what was happening! My friends explained to me that this was Flamenco-pop, developed during the sixties and seventies. To me, it sounded like ‘normal’ pop music, but it’s based on the rhythms of Flamenco. And the Spaniards can dance some amazing Flamenco to it.

I was determined at that point to learn from my friends to dance Flamenco-pop as good as the Spaniards!! Much to my dismay, even the basic arm movements (for women) of ‘picking the apple, eating the apple, and throwing the apple’ are VERY difficult to perform elegantly…. I guess I’ll have to take formal classes!

My knowledge and appreciation of Flamenco has grown so much that now when I go to a Flamenco show, I see that it is not just music, or a dance. It’s both and much more! It’s an art form, consisting of the ‘cante’, the song (considered the most important factor, the source which gives inspiration), the guitar playing "el toque" and "el baile", the dance. It is one of the few forms of music where not only the music and the singing interact on the level of improvisation, but so does the dance. A piece won’t ever be performed twice exactly the same way. Improvisation and spontaneity is key- reflecting the very essence of the Andalucians! I can’t wait to start my classes.

Learn more about studying Spanish in Granada

By: Anne-Marie Dingemans

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