Flamenco has been a form of art, passion, and rhythm for many centuries in the Spanish culture. Originating in Andalucia, this erotic dance has captured the traditional essence as legends get passed down through swift arm movements and smooth hip swaying. Through the years this special dance has transformed from a primitive, simple storytelling form to a sensual, complex dance style. Deriving from the gypsies, Moorish, Andalusians, and Jews, the Flamenco is extremely culture oriented. Due to all of these different cultures contributing to the dance, it has a very unique style and art form.
Through provocative movements and swift arm gestures, the dancers of the Flamenco are able to tell a story passed down from generations. The importance of the Flamenco dance roots from within a melting pot of cultures that joined together in the form of art, movement, and music. Flamenco dance, or baile, is a dancer’s outward expression of his/her most profound emotions. The dance isn’t considered a technical performance, but more a way to express duende, a passion or feeling felt in flamenco. Flamenco has many characteristics that make up its evolutionary charisma.
There are 4 main types of flamenco styles. The first is Jondo/grande, which is the deep profound flamenco. This kind is the “serious” style and is often compared to Blues music. It is a very interpretive style of dance, and is often times one of the hardest to interpret. With its intense duende and deep rhythmic movements, Jondo is not about mastering technique, but mastering the dancer’s emotions. Another type of Flamenco, which is less intense, is Flamenco intermedio. This is just a less difficult version than flamenco Jondo, and the movements are more swift and simple.
It can have an oriental cast to the music, and is a less profound meaning than Flamenco Jondo. Flamenco chico, is the lightest of these three. It is a dance about lighter, more relatable subjects such as love, humor, and happiness. The tango is a form of chico Flamenco, as well as alegrias and bulerias. It has more sensuous but fast movements, and loud shouting and stomping. The last type is a more diverse form. Popular Flamenco is a combination of all three types of Flamenco, and is the least pure form. This dance is recognized as the commercialism form, and has barely any emotional involvement within the movements.
This Flamenco is for audiences who go to see a dance show, without needing the emotional attachment involved. All four of these Flamenco styles exemplifies just how culturally unique the flamenco dance really is, and how emotionally investing it can become. In order to become a professional Flamenco dancer, the dancers have to pick the commercialism style route or the emotional flamenco styles; jondo, intermedio, or chico. Dancers are called bailores or bailoras. If the bailores pick the commercial route, they are sacrificing pure emotion and art for more money.
Other dancers, who feel a loyaltly to the pure form of dance and conveying passion through this dance, will choose between the remaining three styles and have a more artistic career. These dances dig deep into the emotional soul. Using arms, hands, fingers, shoulders, and hips the female dancers convey their emotional outpour through the curving, flowing movements of their bodies. The men, on the other hand, have less movement with their bodies, but rather accentuate the woman’s movements by their close proximity and steady gaze on the woman’s eyes and body the entire dance.
A couple-dance usually conveys usually a story of love or heartbreak. The woman is able to express her love, passion, and confidence, while the man looks hungrily at her, mirroring her movements with masculinity and possessiveness. The two together create a very strong, intimate image in which the audience can feel the partnership as well as the story between them. One of the most famous Flamenco dancers in history is Carmen Amaya. She was considered “the greatest Spanish gypsy dancer of her generation” with extreme passion and a fiery personality. Amaya started dancing when she was five years old, accompanied by her father on the guitar.
She would dance in front of waterfront taverns in Barcelona, and soon after danced her first Flamenco in Granada. One of Amaya’s performances had even bewitched a man named Sabicas, who soon became a famous Flamenco guitarist that accompanied her while she danced. Together they recorded Queen of the Gypsies and Flamenco! Amaya danced one of her first big performances on stage in Paris, in 1929, next to Spanish dancer Raquel Meller. After this she was offered to dance in Buenos Aires, and it was there that a theater was named after her for her amazing dancing skills. She was so highly praised, that S. Hurok signed her and brought her to New York City. In 1936 she claimed her residence in the United States and took it by storm.
Acting in several films, including Romeo and Juliet, and Los Tarantos, all which were highly recognized in box offices. She also performed in the white house for Franklin Roosevelt in 1944, and Harry S. Truman in 1953. Amaya led the pathway for female performers, inspiring many to dance with confidence and passion from the soul. A very famous male dancer, who spread the appeal of masculine flamenco dancing throughout history, was Vicente Escudero. Previous to World War II, Vicente’s shows were very successful.
He was well known for his austerity and his confident male expression, which landed him in films as well. Together men and female throughout history shaped this dance to become something very unique. Although there are only 4 types of this dance, each man and woman expresses this dance from their very own raw emotion, making each dance routine unique and unlike any other type of dance. Men and women, like their dancing in the Flamenco, share very different costumes. The women, who are known for their emotional output and raw expression, wear long dresses with layered, colorful skirts.
These skirts are called bata de cola, and they traditionally weighed 10 pounds. As the generations passed, the skirt became lighter due to more swift movements. The women usually also wear a mantan, which is a colorful, fringed shawl around their wait to accentuate their hip movements. The men, like their masculine, simple movements in the dance, wear black fitted pants and a traditionally white top with a black small jacket or vest. Both the men and women wear shoes with nails drilled in the heels so that when they stomp, the noise can be a lot louder and dramatic.
Fans and castanets are props that can also add to the dramatic effect of the dance. The outfits exemplify the colorful, exotic theme of the Flamenco dance and it’s dancers. The Flamenco dance is a very diverse, unique dance that has many cultures involved. Passed down from generations, what one was a primal dance full of movements and stomping, evolved into a beautiful, emotional story telling opportunity in which dancers put fourth their innermost feelings. The Flamenco has been an emotional outlet for dancers and musicians.
It is not only a dance, but an art form, a commercialistic attraction, a story, and a passion. All these characteristics summarize what the flamenco means to many. What can be a dance can also be an expression of a love story, a heartbreak, or just some lighthearted humor. Flamenco is an escape for both the audience and the dancers. With the swift hand movements and erotic hip swaying, one can be captivated by the emotional tale of a bailoras. The importance of the Flamenco dance is one that can be summed up through a mixture of cultures and their stories, in which we can join the journey of these generations.