WHAT IS FLAMENCO?
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Nothing says Spain more than its flamenco culture.
Flamenco dance and flamenco music are art forms inextricably linked to each other, and people use the term interchangeably to refer to both, as flamenco dancers, singers and musicians normally perform together.
Flamenco is based on various folkloric music traditions of southern Spain, and it originated in the Spanish region of Andalusia.
The exact origin of flamenco is unknown and is subject of many theories. The most widespread belief is that flamenco was developed through the cross-cultural interchange between native Andalusians, Romani (Gypsies), Castilians, Moors and Sephardic (Hispanic) Jews in Andalusia.
Spreading throughout the country over time, a variety of flamenco styles emerged and evolved in different parts of Spain. Nowadays, Spanish flamenco culture is a rich and colourful tapestry woven of all these different traditions and styles of artistic expression.
CHARACTERISTICS OF FLAMENCO DANCE, MUSIC AND SONG
However, shared characteristics of all schools of flamenco dance (Spanish- baile) are the proud posture and bearing of dancers; sensuality, freedom and richness of their bodily expression, and their elaborate costumes - such as frilled polka-dot dresses that we all know so well.
The dancing is imbued by the deep dark passion or the spirit (Spanish-duende) of flamenco guitar music, and impassioned, visceral vocal improvisations of flamenco singers.
Flamenco music is comprised of six elements:
· Cante or singing
· Toque or guitar playing.
· Jaleo or choruses
· Palmas or hand clapping.
· Pitos or finger snapping.
When a dancer starts on stage, accompanied with singers, hand-clappers, and guitarists – one will often witness audience actively participating in the spectacle, encouraging dancers or musicians with hearty shouts ‘Olé!’, to help them reach the level of ecstatic duende, that will affect them all. And this shared experience makes no two performances ever the same.
It is no wonder that the main colours of flamenco are red, yellow, white and black – colours that symbolise bleeding hearts, lust, flames, warmth of sun, purity of love and darkness of unrequited emotions and of profound sadness.
Famous European and American writers, painters, photographers and filmmakers who travelled to and fell in love with Spain have contributed to popularisation of flamenco on a global scale over the past couple of centuries.
Thanks to many of those illustrious artists and the rise of tourism in recent history, flamenco has spread all over the world, and it is now especially popular in the United States and Japan.
In Japan, there are currently more flamenco academies than there are in Spain.
As a result of this world-wide recognition of its uniqueness, in 2010 UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. And, rightfully so!
Because, once you've seen, heard, or danced flamenco and it touched your soul - you will never be the same.