Iremember, quite clearly, my first introduction to Spanish culture in fourth grade. A tall, dark-haired and brightly smiled woman walked into my classroom wearing a skin-tight, yet frilly, red dress, a full face of makeup, and what looked like a chrysanthemum in her hair. To us, a class full of Brooklyn’s finest white and dark chocolate 80s babies, the lady in red had to be the Señorita that everyone goes to the Kentucky Fair to see. We were convinced and proud that Ms. Beverly, our teacher, was an undercover celebrity and used her pull to get La Señorita with flowers in her hair to teach our class about Flamenco dance and Spanish culture. Little did I know, it would be my first experience with duende – a strange spiritual, magical, and moving presence that everyone watching a performer deeply embodying their craft can feel, but not explain.
My advice, when it comes to experiencing Spanish dance – just stick to the traditions that hail from Andalucia, namely, Flamenco and Sevillanas. My experience with duende stuck with me into my adulthood and I eventually decided that it was necessary for me to figure out a way to move to Spain. I never thought I would teach English in a foreign land. However, when I realized that doing so would provide a way for me to explore new culture and expand myself as a citizen of humanity, I decided to give it a try – I’m glad I did. Spain is a beautiful country with a rich multicultural history that is both kept very much alive and suppressed at the same time.
The word Flamenco describes an improvised and
expressive family of over 50 different
song and dance styles, rather than
just one style.
The country has been conquered and ruled by a plethora of ethnic groups and political regimes whose presence has significantly impacted all facets of modern day Spanish life – including art, culture, and expression. Dance, however, continues to play a major role in Spanish culture.
For many foreigners, the idea of Spanish dance only brings forth visions of strumming guitars, stomping feet and sexy women in brightly colored flamenco dresses playing castañuelas. However, this idea of Spain is only representative of one region, Andalucia. A more accurate image of Spanish dance would be one that included the use of bagpipes and tambourines, as they are the main instruments for accompanying the traditional dances across the north of Spain! And yes, they are as boring as they sound.
My advice, when it comes to experiencing Spanish dance, just stick to the traditions that hail from Andalucia – namely, Flamenco and Sevillanas. The word Flamenco describes the animprovised and expressive family of over 50 different song and dance styles, rather than just one style. The history of these traditions is not precisely known and has only been documented for the last 200 years. Most of what is known regarding Flamenco before this time is based upon stories which have been orally passed down through family dynasties – leaving much room for speculation and debate. It is generally accepted, however, that Flamenco was birthed as a result of a unique fusion of Gypsy, Islamic, Sephardic, and native Andalucían cultures that existed in the south of Spain during the late 15th and early 16th century.
Often confused as being Flamenco itself, Sevillanas is believed to have evolved from a 15th century Castilian dance called the Seguidillas. This dance was later influenced by Flamenco and other forms of dance to transform into what is known as Sevillanas today. Sevillanas is a choreographed four part traditional folk dance (and genre of music) done mostly in the Andalucía region of Spain at most social gatherings. Sevillanas is usually performed in pairs, although sometimes in groups, and is danced by both men and women.
Every year people come from all over the world come to Spain to experience Flamenco and Sevillanas. If you are planning your next trip to Spain and would like to include seeing some of the best Spanish dancers perform, consider grabbing tickets to one of the following events or venues:
- Coral de la moreria (Madrid) – www.corraldelamoreria.com
- El cordobes (Barcelona) –www.tablaocordobes.es
- Tablao Arenal (Sevilla) – tablaoelarenal.com
- Los Gallos (Sevilla) – www.tablaolosgallos.com
- La Bienal Flamenco Festival (Málaga) –www.malagaenﬂamenco.com
- La Bienal Flamenco Festival (Sevilla) – www.labienal.com
If you are interested in learning how to dance Flamenco, you should be aware that because
this tradition has been passed down orally, not much of a formalized pedagogy has been
developed. This means that classes are mainly taught in apprenticeship settings and there are many things that you will have to learn and develop on your own. Nevertheless, if you´re like me and find exploring on your own to be even more enticing, then check out the following locations to start classes:
- Fundacion Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas(Madrid) – www.conservatorioﬂamenco.org
- Centro Amor de Dios (Madrid) – www.conservatorioﬂamenco.org
- Universidad de Flamenco (Madrid) – www.uﬂamenco.com
- Adrés Marín Studio (Sevilla) – www.andresmarin.es/estudio
- Úrsula López Studio (Sevilla) – www.ﬂamencodanza.com
If you are interested in learning more about teaching English in Spain, start here: www.comoconsultingspain.com
Majida Mundial is an advocate for passion-flled lifestyle creation and a believer that anything you want can be yours at anytime, if you believe enough. It’s never too late to grow, change, shift, and be who you desire to be. Always open to making new friends, connect with her on instagram @MajidaMunidal