Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos by Barbara Angelakis & Manos Angelaki
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Andalucía 2016 Flamenco Museum Performance1

In Search of the “Real” Flamenco

Flamenco has become a beloved dance form world-wide. In the west we are familiar with flamenco as a dance that includes heel stomping, hand clapping,  finger snapping and lots and lots of Attitude with a capital A. But what do we really know about it? September is the annual flamenco  festival in Andalucia, the home of flamenco, and we were fortunate  enough to be touring around and visiting small towns in the region.

Flamenco is not just dance; it is the joining together of three major forms of  artistic expression from vastly divergent cultures incorporated into one - singing (Cante), music (Toque for guitar playing), dancing (Baile).  There is also clapping (Tapoteo) foot tapping (Zapoteo) vocalizations  (Jaleo) finger snapping (Pitos).

Jews arrived in Northern Spain as early as the 6th century and migrated southward into Andalucía. They brought with them  their wailing intonations, complex vocalizations, and exuberant dancing  by males and females separately. The men especially performed wild  stomping and leaping as the music increased in tempo. The women tended  to circle dancing with occasionally women taking the center to perform  spontaneous movements. Spanish Jews are called Sephardic from the Hebrew name of Spain: Separad.

The Romani people or Gypsies migrated from Rajasthan in Northwest India and settled in Iberia starting in the 9th century. They brought with them the nomadic tradition of sitting around a camp fire after the days work was done to socialize and recant their  stories. Eventually the stories were sung and to keep time, hands were  clapped or drummed on hard surfaces. Barefoot young girls would dance  around the fire swirling their skirts and the entire family would join in. In Romani tradition young women were hands off to ensure their  virginity until married and so when men joined the dance there was no  touching; hands were often held behind their backs, and only the eyes  could lock on their dancing partner to express their passion. Spanish  Gypsies were called Gitanos or Jitanos.

When the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711A.D, as often happens  between conquerors and conquered, the best of both worlds came together  in a cultural epiphany. In fabled Andalucía, where the Moors held sway  for some 800 years, east melded with west in perfect synchronicity.  Around 822 A.D. one of the most famous Moorish singers, Ziryab (the  blackbird) introduced the guitar and other string instruments to Iberia.

Andalucía 2016 Alcázar Garden and Palace

Here an exotic stew of Gypsy, Jewish, Moorish and Christian peoples became  one integrated culture that existed in (more or less) peaceful coalition for eight centuries and achieved extraordinary heights in art and  science hence the exotic, thrilling Flamenco we know today as well as  magnificent architecture, impressive gardens, world-class artists,  unique gastronomy, to name just a few artistic achievements. The  scientific advances are far too numerous to mention here.

Andalucía 2016 Lebrija Central Square New

Lebrija is a small traditional town just outside of Seville and is considered  the cradle of flamenco. Lebrija is a typical charming town with all  streets leading down to the central square and the City Hall. Two major  families populated the town, Peña and Malena, with each developing  their own style of flamenco. Moorish style of construction was a square outer building with a central courtyard; often times with a pool or  fountain and garden to cool down the intense Iberian summers. So  instead of a camp fire, families now gathered around a courtyard  fountain for their evening get-togethers. We visited such a house and  saw where the family would gather and entertain themselves and friends  in the privacy of their own courtyard. In Lebrija we also walked through a local craft market and watched traditional pottery-making at a local  factory.

Andalucía 2016 Rosario Muñoz Casado accompanied by David Rodriquez

Another small town near Seville is Arahal, with a long tradition of flamenco.  Here we visited the Museum of Women in Flamenco with a fascinating  presentation of the “Greats” of flamenco. It is a new museum and so far  all descriptions are in Spanish but there are already plans to enlarge  the collection and add language descriptions for the tourists who are  sure to visit. After the museum we went to a local bar Bodega Mazaroca for a sumptuous lunch of local specialties. For dessert we were treated to an informal vocal performance by beautiful young Rosario Muñoz  Casado accompanied by 15 year old David Rodriquez on guitar. David is  destined to be the next “great flamenco guitarist” we were informed, and after their performance we could see why. We also enjoyed the more  seasoned performances by Pepe El De los Cavales on guitar and Paco Esquivel singing.

Andalucía 2016 Labrija Pepe Montaraz

The most famous flamenco performers are Gitanos, known for their power and  passion, such as the performers from Peña Flamenco. They bring to their art the oppressed minorities’ expression of deep personal grief and the  lament of persecuted ethnicities. Gitano flamencos regard the Cante  Jondo (profound or deep song) as a form of prayer with the object of  achieving the state of “Duende” an intensely focused trance-like state of emotion. Federico Garcia Lorca in 1933 described it as “Los Sonidos  Negros” or the dark sounds. Watching such a performance elevates the  viewer almost into a state of ecstasy. The Baile Grande is a profound  dance that closely resembles classical Hindu movements which the Romani  brought with them from the Indian subcontinent.

Andalucía 2016 Seville Flamenco Museum

For the flamenco aficionado Seville is the heart of the action. Begin with a visit to the Museum of Flamenco www.museoflamenco.com where you will learn about the 7 principal styles. Alegria: happiness.  Seguirilla: death, deep hurt. Soleá: loneliness. Tango: passion.  Guajira: sensuality. Farruca: elegance. Buleria: seduction. You will  also see screens of famous dancers and some of the original outfits they performed in. Proceed down to the theater where you will have a live  performance with singer, guitarist and dancers. It is an intimate  authentic setting, so do not be shocked when the dancers spin and sweat  spirals off of them onto the audience.

Andalucía 2016 Bayles de Jitanos with Compañia

Every two years Seville has a flamenco festival (la Bienal De Flamenco) and  since we were visiting this year we were able to catch a couple of  performances at Teatro Central. We saw one experimental performance by  Flamenco Big Band with well-known flamenco guitarist Gerardo Nunez.  Frankly it was not my cup of tea as I much prefer traditional canto. We  also saw Bayles de Jitanos with Compañia, Antonio Molina and ˜El Choro” a dynamic performance and a very enjoyable night.

As I can never get enough flamenco I intend to catch the action in New York for the annual festival in February.

With great thanks to the Tourism Office of Spain www.spain.info as well as the Tourist Board of Andalucía www.andalucia.com.

 

 

 

© October 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.

 

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