The seductive Flamenco dancers
I try hard to look into her eyes every time she turns towards me, but I can not. Her movements are fast, very fast. Should I look at the expression in her eyes and face or should I look at her feet tapping merrily on the beat of hand clapping and the song? One more time she swirls gracefully holding her long skirt. It has lace and layers of ruffles. Sometimes she just flicks it in style. If she does not do it, then the ankle length skirt is long enough to make her trip and fall over.
Her costume reflects the traditional culture of song and dance and is influenced by Andalusian gypsy women who accompanied livestock traders to livestock fairs in Seville in earlier days.
The colour of her flamenco shoes match with her dress. Invariably they catch my attention. She flaunts them while she dances away energetically to the tunes of the song.
These shoes are hand made by artisans in Spain using quality leather and wood to ensure the shoe is robust enough to stand up to constant use. The nails in the wooden heels and toes are what make these shoes special, for, they allow the dancers to use their feet to make perfect rhythmic percussive sound that complement and enhance the music.
Flamenco dancing style has very dramatic and sharp movements. The hairstyle is also quite dramatic in itself. Her hair is tied neatly at the back and a large red flower adorns it. Sometimes ornately decorated hair clips or combs are also used to hold the hair in place.
She tells us a painful story. It is not a story, it is a feeling that she is going through. Her graceful arm movements are contrast to intense foot tapping while her facial expressions interpret the words which often express the lament of flamenco’s history.
Perhaps the greatest joy of flamenco dancing is watching the expressions and emotions of the dancer, which change many times during a single performance.
A genre of Spanish music, song, and dance from Andalusia in southern Spain, Flamenco dance is an expressive Spanish dance characterized by four elements namely, cante (singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dance) and palmas (handclaps) to portray emotion to an audience.
It started with just the singing, along with hand clapping. Later the Spanish flamenco guitar was added. The flamenco dance has differing stories of where it originated from, but there are many similar stories to say that it drew early influences from Greek and Roman.
The movements also have traces of Indian Kathak dance steps form and with the arrival of Moorish & Jewish population several centuries ago it has extracted characteristics from them as well.
Today’s version of flamenco dance and music is notable fusion of centuries of absorbing and combining the elements of this myriad of diverse cultures.
Palos are types of flamenco dance and I am told there are nearly 50 of them! Depending on the criteria of mood intention and the cultural traditions behind each song, these Palos are enacted.
Now another dancer joins her on the stage. She is wearing a black dress with red silk vest. Black net on the sleeves make it an exquisite dress. Her hair is pulled back into a low bun at her neck. A black hat, black fishnet tights and black shoes complete the attire. Red and black are very popular colors to use in Spanish dance costumes.
Both of them look very confident and they dance in synchronized manner. Each step and movement depicts pride, both in themselves and their culture. There is a lot of rhythmic hand clapping by both the musicians and the dancer and of course plenty of feet stomping.
The use of castanets and occasional shout by one of them enhances the mood. Made of shell or hollow wood, these Castanets are not as easy to play as the dancers make it seem.
There is little movement of the hips, the body is tightly held and the arms are long, like a ballet dancer. Slowly my eyes are again fixed on their pretty feet. I admire their levels of energy and the stamina.
I get glimpses of the lore behind the renowned gypsy roaming. These stories are often shared with cautionary caveats that many are without evidence and could have been a result of some myth.
I can see they are not very young. In traditional flamenco, young people are not considered to have the emotional maturity to adequately convey the soul of the genre.
So unlike other dance forms such as ballet or our own Indian dances where dancers take the stage early to take advantage of youth and strength, many flamenco dancers do not hit their peak until their thirties.
I look at the guitarists and the singer. He is an old man with silver hair. Standing he claps his hands in sync with his full throated singing. Guitarists are sitting on chairs; only thing that is in motion is their fingers on the strings.
After sometime the dancers leave the stage and come back in different attire. This time three of them perform a happy chorus. The rhythm of clapping and singing has changed and so has their dance! The atmosphere has become electric. I am enthralled and so is the audience.
Then enters on stage a dancer couple. The man is in trousers and shirt and ordinary looking black shoes. As usual it is the woman who catches my attention.
First they stand motionless for a few moments. Slowly the clapping, the singing and the strums of the guitars catch momentum. The dancers tiptoe toward each other to the beat of snapping fingers. Looking into the woman’s eyes, the man launches into flamenco dance as passionately as the song is belted out by the cantaor.
As the tempo escalates, their love and passion is shown in their movements. I can see the explosion of emotions in their facial expressions and the dance. They keep their eyes firmly locked at each other and fiercely dance in what becomes a competition of passion, sensual tension and emotion.
As the night progresses, this show comes to an end and I bid my goodbye to the most vivid flamenco dance I’ve ever seen. How I wished the show would go on.
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