You’ve heard of jazz hands? I prefer flamenco hands. That sinuous arc and rotating elegance of fingers dancing in the air as the dancer beats the crap out of the floor. Oh yeah, I love me some flamenco. It originated in Andalusian Spain sometime in the middle ages, and came into it’s own in mid-19th century, The Golden Age of Flamenco. Andalusian’s who commonly lived in caves combined Spanish, Arabic and Gypsy influences. These were folk stories told through music, handed down through generations.
There are three mediums of the flamenco style: dance, guitar and song. I prefer guitar first, but the solo style. A traditional flamenco guitarist is never the star of the show and merely follows the singer and dancer. My second love is the dancer. Ah, those ruffled dresses! Those fierce men stomping and posing and mastering the floor like a bullfighter in the ring! Song, eh, not so much. I think it’s because I don’t know Spanish. Perhaps if I did, I’d get into the song much more.
Two days ago I attended the Jose Porcel ballet flamenco show at the Northrup Auditorium here on the U of M campus. My heart is still beating with joy. Even though the ballet style is a little more loose and free than the traditional stuff (men’s postures are not so stiff and arrogant and lots of twirls and arm movement), it so rocked. When the dancers beat the floor with their shoes, even though they are on a wood stage, the earth, perhaps dozens of feet below concrete, feels that force and shudders. The rapid footwork absolutely thunders, and gets into your blood. From the hips down, the dancers are fierce, all business. And above the hips the arms are structured yet airy and so elegant. Even the men with their toreador stances master the air with a graceful cut.
Yeah, I’m a freak about the dance. But is it so wrong that I spent a lot of time ogling the fabulous dresses? The poses the women achieve, their bodies arced, arms out and fingers curled, works the dresses into some kind of art form. Amazing.
You might get a taste of the flamenco dance by watching Dancing With The Stars, when they do their paso dobles. The paso is not traditional flamenco, but it mimics the flamenco dancer and bullfighter. It’s close enough for me. It was used marvelously in the movie Strictly Ballroom. Anyone seen that? How many ways did that movie freakin’ rock? Oh yeah! It’s got ballroom and touches of flamenco in the paso doble. The final dance competition scene where Fran and Scott are disqualified during their paso doble is killer. Remember the grizzled old Spanish dancer? “Show me. Show me your paso doble!” Watch this movie. ‘nuf said.
So I thought I’d try to embed a YouTube video of the bulierias, one of my favorite flamenco dances and guitar compositions. This highlights the graceful armwork and the rapid footwork. It’s a fierce kind of ‘Really? I dare you!’ mocking sort of dance. This chick means business, yes? (Okay, so couldn’t figure the embedding part out. Click here to go to the video.)
I wanted you all to be able to listen to some of the different forms of flamenco, and Amazon has a great MP3 program where you can listen to 30 second clips from songs. So here’s a link to one album with various forms of the flamenco style. Listen to the zapateado. It’s all about the footwork in that song. FAST footwork. (To listen just click on the little arrows to the left of the songs.) Sabicas is the rock star of the flamenco guitar soloist world. Give him a listen, too. Okay, and I can’t resist, here’s a link to the Strictly Ballroom soundtrack. Check out track #7 for Fran and Scott’s paso doble.
Do you like flamenco? Ever had the opportunity to attend a concert? What’s your favorite kind of dance to obsess over? Or let’s just talk obsessions. Got a favorite obsession that you love to do/read about/talk about/watch?