Flamenco Dance is a Spanish dance form, practiced in the Andalusia, the southern region of Spain. The dance reflects the passion, romance and fervor of people and is beautifully crafted with grace and dignity. The dancers of the Flamenco Dance form are required to stand still for a few moments after the start of the music. As the dancer gets engrossed in the music, absorbing everything which comes his/her way, the inspiration makes him/her start the act. Flamenco Dance is basically a physical expression of the emotions meted out in the song. It is basically tries to convey the meaning of words through dance and depends on the personal expression of the performer. Duet is the most popular form of Flamenco Dance. The dancers look at each other passionately, expressing their emotions through various facial expressions. Throughout the dance the dancers keep their eyes locked, building a labyrinth of love, desire and sentiments. The role of the Flamenco dancers is to tell tales of love or lamentation, through graceful and light arm movements which contrast the reverberating and intense feet tapping.
Origin & History of Flamenco Dance
A form of dance done in the Andalucian region of Spain, Flamenco is an amalgamation of all cultures. It draws its inspiration from Greek, Roman, Indian, Moorish and Jewish cultures. According to some scholars, the existence of Flamenco can be traced back to the 16th century. This form of dance first appeared in the 18th century, in its proper structure and gained recognition. Flamenco dance form caught up in the 19th century and is today quite evident at weddings, parties or social events. The second half of the 19th century was the golden age for Flamenco. In the first half, Andalucía and the gypsy character enthralled the Spaniards and young European Romantics. The gypsy character symbolized freedom and uniqueness. Thus, the fascinated young people described the Flamenco parties when they travelled back to their countries, causing quite a stir. The dance was publicly performed in cafes cantantes (outdoor cafes were small groups of artistes performed popular music for the public) and later, started being performed in larger venues. The dance form became so popular that, there were shows everywhere, so much so that people stopped attending anymore flamencos. The dance came under the limelight again in the 1950’s owing to many major artists who labeled it as a form of art.
The history of flamenco has been under constant evolution for the past 200 years. It began as form of celebration among the gypsies, mostly performed in their house or surroundings. They were not professionals then. It was only in the 1850’s that flamenco was taken professionally and performances began. Wooden platforms were introduced to boost the taconeo (footwork) and zapateado (rhythmic stamping of the feet). The only constraint was the scarcity of ‘Palo Secos’, i.e. songs to which flamenco is performed. Till 1936, the presentation of flamenco was more theatrical which included ‘opera flamenca’. Dancing lost its glamour and popularity in comparison to singing, and remained dormant until the mid-20th century. Flamenco revived once again and this time was integrated with some other dance forms, such as ballet to form Ballets Flamencos.
Flamenco Dance Categories
Flamenco dance is popular in the regions of Southern Spain and has as many as 50 different forms, each projecting the different moods of a person. The mood reflects the nature of the dance and sets the melodic parameters and the cultural backdrop. The three main categories of Flamenco music and dance are:
- Jondo or the grande, which depicts the lament and the grief of people. It centers on themes of death, anguish, despair or religious sentiment.
- Intermedio (intermediate), which is of a lesser intensity, but is extremely reflective in nature. It is often accompanied with an oriental cast to the music.
- Chico (small or light), which depict the feelings of love, ribald humor and happiness.
The Dance Technique
In a modern flamenco performance, the dancer will stand still for some time listening to the thrums of guitar, the clapping and the singing until the inspiration strikes him or her. Following this, the dancer will perform a passionate Flamenco, articulating each and every emotion with fervor. One can see the emotional explosion on the dancer’s face. The dancers are required to physically interpret the words – to tell the story through precise movements of the arms accompanied by facial expressions. The constant, rhythmic stamping of feet to a bewildering intensity contrasts the lithe hand movements, thereby striking a balance between the two. When the performance is by duets, the man and the woman keep their eyes locked and indulge in an ardent sexual tension and emotion.
Flamenco has been in a state of evolution, coordinating and assimilating with modern dance types. It is being performed by gypsies as well as non-gypsies, far away from its birthplace, and has achieved acclaims globally.