About Flamenco Dance
Fluid arms and percussive footwork are hallmarks of Flamenco dance that are paralleled in the beautiful melodies and intricate rhythms of Flamenco music. Originating in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, the fire of Flamenco dance is reflective of its gypsy (Gitano) dancing roots and influences from Arabic traditions. Learn traditional as well as original dances that are steeped in folklore and melding cultures dating back to the 1500’s in then Moorish Spain.
To learn the history of flamenco dance, one must learn the history of Spain and its neighboring regions. Sometime between the 7th and 14th centuries, groups of gypsies began to migrate into Europe from the Middle East and northern Africa. Some came for opportunities, others because their lands had been invaded. With them they brought their own styles of music, dance and artisanship. They earned their money performing trades like storytelling and using herbal medicine. Meanwhile Arab armies continued to take over lands in the Middle East, bridging over into Europe until they eventually arrived in Spain.
The significance of the arrival and conquest of the Spaniards by the Arabs created a new Spain, one of mixed cultures, religions and even language. Luckily the religions that were practiced, Muslim, Christian, and Judaism, encouraged peaceful co-existence of these groups. In Spain today, the influence of the Arabs, or Moors as they were sometimes called, is evident in architecture, and even many words are rooted in Arabic. The blending of these cultures in the southern region of Spain called Andalusia proved to be the perfect recipe for the art form of flamenco.
Then, in 1492, while Columbus was off venturing to the new world, the Jewish found themselves banished from Spain. All those found practicing Judaism were to be severely punished. This forced many into hiding or to flee. All people in Spain were to be Christian, with no exceptions. Many were forced to become nomadic, or part of other still existing gypsy groups. When in hiding, or locked away in prisons for their beliefs, they sang songs that forced their heartache out and into the air. Their voices didn’t hit perfect notes, but vibrated and moaned and wailed out the pain of their situation and their oppression. This tragedy is one of the main contributors to flamenco music.
Sadness makes many flamenco songs start out slowly and deliberate as the dancer’s body and the musicians force her to flow and move and demonstrate her pain and devastation. Many times, the dancer then realizes, after her pain has been released, that she is angry or determined, and begins to speed up her movements. “Palmas,” or rhythms, are now clapped out to motivate her and cheer her on. Toward the end of the song she begins to see that there is hope and dances triumphantly against her oppressors.
Of course, this is not the way most songs go, but many forms of flamenco music follow a similar pattern. Some are notably influenced by the city they were developed in such as the “Sevillana.” Other songs can be happy from the start, however flamenco was born of pain, and should be danced with a face that exhibits the emotions of the music. This is not a form in which the dancer smiles and shines for the duration of the song.
Into the Public Eye
During the 19th century, the flamencos or gypsies were once again in the public eye. No longer in hiding, they began to display their music and dance in public in cafes and plazas. Once the everyday Spanish could see flamenco and experience it, it became increasingly popular. Over the last century, it has become an art form inextricably linked to Spain and the Spanish culture, with practicing dancers, singers, and musicians popping up worldwide.Original article by Kena Sosa, eHow Contributor
Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
In 2010, flamenco became part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The following video explains the essence of flamenco culture and its roots.