Spain has a reputation for fiestas and celebrations that are overflowing with music and dance, and the collective image is one of color, mystery, art and passion.
The lone figure of the matador, cape and sword in hand beneath the burning afternoon sun and the equally gypsy art of flamenco seem to somehow go hand in hand, and they are the things that seem to infatuate many foreigners visitors.
For centuries, poets and writers from all corners of the world have told of the Spanish gypsies and their colourful customs and traditions, and most of them allude to the duende or spirit that seems to accompany their rituals.
Many people witness flamenco in some form or another during their summer vacations in Spain, because in most of the main cities like Seville, Madrid, Barcelona and along the Costa del Sol, you will find flamenco tablaos in abundance.
Flamenco is presented in many different varieties and the colourful polka-dot dresses, castanets and the mellow tones of the acoustic guitar have all become emblematic of Spain, but these do not necessarily represent the authentic side of flamenco.
Castanets are not, in fact, used in orthodox flamenco; they are an element that was added to the commercial flamenco to enhance the finger snapping and also to add a little panache to the dance.
However, flamenco differs from all other styles of world music, and even though its spontaneity and emotional depth has similarities with jazz, or even the early blues; the impulsiveness of the dancer and the way the singer interprets the words will ensure that no two performances will be the same.
It is these characteristics that separate flamenco from any other style of music and dance, and to witness a deep passionate display of flamenco where the dancer performs with such intense enthusiasm, drawing his inspiration from the sediment that lies in his blood, is a magical experience that will leave most people spellbound.
The sheer force and power of the dance as the performer unleashes a brutal and instinctive sequence, maintaining a pervading sense of grace and dignity throughout is a most wonderful and gratifying experience.
The exciting rhythms that are interwoven around the song by the cracking palmas (handclapping) and the zapateado (tap dance of the feet) will be ringing in your ears for a long time after the performance has finished.
The excitement is enhanced by the riotous jaleo, where shouts of encouragement are directed at the dancers in an attempt to help them reach a high; where they will find the duende and let the spirit guide them in their dance.
In 2011, Unesco recognized flamenco as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity and it must surely be one of the most exhilarating and mystifying styles of music and dance in the history of world-music; yet it is a phenomenon that has evolved from the simple daily routines of the andalusian gypsies.
- Flamenco; an Englishman’s passion (Sol y Sombra Books ISBN: 978-0-9563132-5-6)
- A Time-defying Heritage ( ediciones flamenco sapiens, museo del baile flamenco ISBN- 13:978-84-9727-429-6)