84 commenti

Flamenco: not only a kind of dance

Originally flamenco was born as music and poetry, but soon it also became a kind of dance. The native region of this sensual dance is the Autonomous Community of Andalusia in Southern Spain where Gypsies settled down after escaping from Greece in 1425.

Notwithstanding the laws against this ethnic group, Gypsies always found support among the poorest social strata and they never gave up their artistic inspiration, despite the laws introduced by the Monarchy of Spain, until they became the best interpreters of the Spanish folklore.

In fact, they learned all the kinds of Andalusian and African dance forms, mixing Arabic, Southern American and Jewish music styles as fandango, jaleo, seguidilla, guineo and guaracha with sensuality and pathos so typical of flamenco.

At literary level, scholars have advanced two theories about this dance form:

  • It is a pure Andalusian phenomenon and therefore not influenced by foreign music styles.
  • Gypsies created it by combining  Andalusian culture with other philosophies.

But a fusion of these theories would be more plausible.

Gypsies would have integrated themselves with the Andalusian inhabitants, who had been reduced to poverty due to the Spanish government. This common condition would have facilitated their integration, although the Spanish government fostered discrimination inside the population, by enacting laws against the Gypsy people.

Their philosophy of life has three main characteristics that are typical of  outcasts:

  1. A strong faith
  2. Enjoying life’s little pleasures such as music, wine, sing, dance etc.
  3. A strong sensuality that can have a holy or profane halo, depending on the context.

Initially, flamenco was just a private phenomenon, born in the slums as the only safety valve of the outcasts. The Gypsies were forced to express their art in secret, due to the Spanish government’s persecution which continued until 1759, year in which the new king, Charles the Third of Spain, started a process of modernization and Europeanization with the appearance of academies, schools and the circulation of all the art and cultural movements. Moreover, with the Pragmatic Sanction issued in 1783, Charles the Third gave to Gypsies freedom of moving and cultural expression, so at last they could express their art and dance openly.

This is why it would be erroneous to define flamenco simply a dance. Flamenco is pain, passion, sensuality, desire, tears and making your life…a work of art.

“To be Flamenco is to have another skin, other passions, other desires. It is a different way of seeing the world, with music in one’s nerves, a fierce pride, happiness mingled with tears, it is a loathing of routine and sameness ; it is to be intoxicated in song, wine, and kisses. It is the translation of life into an art of whim and freedom. ” – Tomas Borras

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