12 Mar The Flamenco Emoji? Yea She's #Woke Too
I have two left feet. I suck at dancing. My jams are the Cha Cha Slide by DJ Casper and the merengue. Let’s be honest, the merengue is pretty much a step to the left and a step to the right, and you’re usually around so many other people that no one can really tell if you’re doing it wrong...unless you step on your partner (been there).
My one dance-related experience in Madrid was when the PINC girls and I went to a flamenco show (to see, Lord help us if we had to dance).
It was kind of creepy, not in a harrowing way, but in a mysterious and intimate kind of way. What I failed to realize was that that was exactly the point.
Flamenco isn’t purely Spanish. Its existence has been documented for only the last 200 years or so, therefore much of its history is extremely obscure, much like the style of dance itself. However, we do know that it comes from a conglomerate of cultures. It’s known to come from Andalucía, Spain’s southern tip and autonomous community consisting of the eight provinces of Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville.
Andalucía (honestly, sounds like a fabulous Disney princess island that I need to be on right now) is an enormous melting pot due to a variety of different cultures’ migration to the south of Spain. The origins of Flamenco are believed to have begun by Romani people (otherwise referred to as gypsies), due to their migration in the early 15th century from Northern India.
By migrating up north to Andalucía while it was under Arabian rule and running into Sephardic Jews and Moors, the combination of cultures and music blended together to refine Flamenco and bring it closer to what it is today. This group of migrants brought with them their instruments and their music as well as their sorrows. They were a highly persecuted group that eventually had to hide in order to avoid persecution by the Catholic monarchy and the Spanish inquisition.
Forcing Christianity on these groups of people not only challenged their preferred religious and spiritual practices but also their entire way of life. They were forced to stop speaking the Romani language, stop wearing their cultural attire, stop wandering and settle into real jobs instead of usual gypsy work such as fortune telling, horse trading, metalworking, sorcery, woodworking, etc.
Get this, before it gained popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, flamenco was sung, danced, and played in the intimacy of the homes of the gypsies. This intimacy curated the perfect environment for them to express their sorrows, pain, anguish, passion, rivalries, joy and love.
The dance style consists of four parts: Cante (voice), Baile (dance), Toque (guitar) and Jaleo (literally translates to "hell-raising" which refers to stomping and hand clapping). There is also an added factor called duende (which translates to Sprite, like a mythological fairy or goblin), which is believed to only be experienced in an intimate flamenco session. Flamenco is rooted in spirituality and duende is believed to be a strong feeling that possesses the dancer and gives them soul, heart and pure passion. Duende is something that only the very best flamenco dancers have been said to envoke.
Moving along to the 18th and 19th centuries, flamenco begins to move it’s way out of obscurity and into the Spanish culture. Writers and performers begin to gain interest and its popularity booms. Soon, flamenco becomes entertainment. Guitarists and other musicians begin to breath new life into the songs and rhythms, flamenco dancers start performing it for the public thus bringing the dance style to a higher platform.
In 1945 flamenco even reached the ears of the White House as popular international dancer, Carmen Amaya received an invitation to perform there by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself.
In 2002, it made its way to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show as supermodel Tyra Banks ignited the stage with her fiery flamenco Jaleo.
In the last few years, flamenco has really been challenged and even changed with the times. Men and women would assume different roles depending on their gender. Men with their stomping and women confined to the dresses and sensuality of the dance. However, there are movements towards a more feminist style of flamenco. Although it may sound a little off, flamenco with a feminist twist challenges the idea that women are too emotional and too passionate to be successful. Instead, it shows that in their emotion and passion they are also powerful. Power that is not hindered by their feelings.
Carmen Amaya was also one of the first to challenge gender stereotypes in the art of flamenco as she was the first woman to wear pants while she danced, and actually preferred them over the traditional dresses women wore. #Woke
So whether you're feeling the power or just want to get your stomping on, flamenco is not only a gorgeous dance to watch but also an intimate moment to share. The feeling is the most important part, and invoking that passion, the hurt, the sorrow or even the love and joy is crucial to the feeling that the audience gets from the performer. You may be part of a group watching the show, but when the lights are dim and the palmas (clapping) start, you may just feel a little duende coming on.