“Flamenco is always sorrow; love is also sorrow. At the end, everything is sorrow and joy,” Camarón de la Isla.

“An extract of poison and fire, this is flamenco,” Antonio Gades.

“Flamenco is the means through which man reaches God without the intervention or saints or angels,” Luis Antonio de Vega.

“Deep Song… is truly deep, deeper than all the wells and oceans of the world. It comes from the first sob and the first kiss,” Federico Garcia Lorca.

It is difficult to explain. It is an art for sure, but it is also a feeling, it is emotion, it is love, anger, pain, joy, it is an expression of the deepest feelings of living, through dance, music, percussion and costume.

Flamenco is one of the most famous traditional folkloric arts in the world. Originally from the south of Spain, flamenco’s roots are found in a mix of different civilizations living together in the southern part of Europe, Andalusia.

Today flamenco is considered an admired art across the entire world. Japan and the US are the countries where this Spanish artform has got more impact. There is a notable fact about the growth of flamenco: there are more flamenco schools in the Asian country than there are in Spain. Japan is one of the biggest consumers of flamenco and nowadays is even producing an important flow of flamenco music, mostly dance (obviously the language is a barrier).

Recent studies have concluded that the triangle of the cities of Cadiz, Ronda (Malaga) and Seville, with Jerez de la Frontera as their center, is the geographical birthplace of the early forms of cante flamenco.

The earliest flamenco records have been documented from the 18th century, however historians date it to much further back (between the 7th and 15th centuries) when Spain was under Arab domination. It is when the mix of cultures originated in Andalusia, where Jews, Christians, and Arabs lived together in a region with plenty of sunshine and where people usually spent many hours outdoors.

Romani culture came later to adopt this hybrid music to the gypsy style, becoming what today is considered one of the most prominent expressions of profound feelings.

The first flamenco schools are dated from the 18th century in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz and Seville. These cities have given the world the majority of the greatest flamenco artists in history.

In London there are around 20 flamenco schools and this art has been growing in recent decades, mirroring its growth the world over.

Angela Alonso, 42 is the director and also teacher of a flamenco school called Ilusión Flamenca (King´s Cross and Covent Garden). Originally from Almeria (Spain), she talks to Artefact about her life and flamenco: “I arrived in London 22 years ago. It shocked me that there were flamenco bars, so I tried to get a job as flamenco dancer,” she explains in one of the saloons where she teaches. “I used to work in an office as a translator but at a company party I brought my castanets, my fan, and a flamenco CD and I did a small performance. This is when people started to call me to take classes,” she remembers with a laugh.

Angela is very happy to be able to work doing what she likes best: “I feel really useful and proud because I help people with the classes. I have always liked to work in something that somehow touches people´s lives. The school is not just a place where you can learn flamenco but also where you can recharge your batteries and take the stress out.” Angela affirms and highlights: “There are some people who have been attending classes for more than 15 years.”

Asking her about why she thinks the Japanese love flamenco so much, she has her own opinion: “I think Japanese culture loves flamenco because it’s easier for them to express the feelings through dance because they suffer in their way and they find a way to embody emotions”.

In her classes, there are people of all ages and from totally different backgrounds. “I want to break a stereotype, it doesn’t matter wherever you came from to learn flamenco. Ability and coordination are more important. Like many things in life, you need determination, a desire to learn and a reason to improve.”

Flamenco

Angela Alonso in the flamenco school [Ilusion Flamenca]

Abbie, 41, is one of the oldest in the class. “I have been taking classes for nine years. Flamenco is a big deal for me, most of my friends in London i met through flamenco and it is my main hobby, I love it!”

Flamenco is a source of energy for her and a way to disconnect. “It´s so strong, powerful, energetic and so intense that you have to concentrate so hard and you forget all the troubles of your everyday work.”

For Angela flamenco is much more than a way of making a living. “Flamenco is feeling that you are alive. I feel free when I dance and I know that whatever happens no one can take flamenco away from me. Even if the world is on fire I can dance and flamenco will be there,” she proudly says with a steely conviction.

Walking across the streets of cities such as Seville and Jerez you can discover flamenco everywhere, not just when the proper flamenco parties are celebrated (La Feria, El Rocio). Flamenco, in opposition to other different musical styles and dances, is originally a street art, where cantaores, bailaores, tocaores and palmeros (singers, dancers, guitarists and percussionists) come together around a guitar and a cajon (a percussion box which is utilized for the rhythm) surrounded by a harmonic chorus of claps.

People sing and dance always accompanied by sherry, Rioja or cold beer in a very spontaneous way. There is a firm connection between flamenco and partying which will be explained later. It has always been a music produced on the streets, around a fire or at the terrace of any random little bar.

Sevilla

Feria de Sevilla´s poster

However, in the second half of the nineteenth century, flamenco flew the nest, leaving behind its traditional home in gypsy communities on the suburbs of the cities and moving into what became known as cafes cantantes. The growing popularity of flamenco and the profits to be made from transforming their premises into venues made the owners of these cafes extend flamenco to all the cities in Spain, especially in Andalusia but also in Madrid and Barcelona. Singers, dancers, and guitarists came together on Mudejar style patios, commonly with a fountain in the centre and the sky as a ceiling. The rise of cafes cantantes had a significant effect on the character of flamenco itself. It led, inevitably, to a considerable increase in the number of performances, many of which now became truly professional and sometimes no longer of purely gypsy origin.

In Triana, the most famous borough in Seville, there are many flamenco places inheriting the legacy of the cafes cantantes, places where flamenco culture keeps its own purity, bringing together great figures of this art, and at the same time, showing its grace to thousands of tourists.

On the southern shore of the Guadalquivir, in Triana, is one of the most famous flamenco spaces in Seville, El Mantoncillo (meaning shawl). It’s a small place, with a not-very-long bar, a tablao (stage), of course, and it is frequented by very well-known faces of the flamenco culture. Later we found that there is also a back room downstairs, a very interesting place.

Sevilla´s views

Seville´s views from Betis Street in Triana

Ana Roncero, 47, the co-owner of the Mantoncillo, has been always linked to the world of flamenco: “I love flamenco. When I was little my father liked fandangos de Huelva, I always listened to it and then it continued to interest me.”

She has a very flamenco look; big earrings, flowers and black and white dots on her shirt: “I have worked in television, I’ve done cultural projects, many related to flamenco. I have directed the flamenco festival in Mexico, I have gone with Enrique Morente, who I love, to do the first Bienal of Flamenco in Buenos Aires. I’ve been a manager of musicians … I’ve always been linked to flamenco,” she explains, looking back through her memories.

At the Mantoncillo you can find mostly local people, usually in their 40s and 50s, some younger couples, and, obviously, some guiri (a word which means ‘foreigner’ in Spain). A lovely view of Seville with the river underneath merges with live flamenco music that makes people clap, sing and enjoy their drinks. Looking at the crowd, peoples’ eyes seem to experience joy and fun when they look at the artist while conversations seem to progressively allow music to get into their consciousness.

“The Mantoncillo is a legendary bar in Betis Street, Tirana, founded by Pepe Lerida, a gypsy and flamenco lover, from the Vega family, the famous family of dancers and singers,” Ana tells us with a hint of a grin: “The Mantoncillo has given rise to a lot of stories, Triana Pura (a prestigious flamenco band) was formed in here, there was a show in the Theatre Lope de Vega called the Mantoncillo. It is a well-loved and well-respected name in the world of flamenco. It is a meeting place for artists.”

El Mantoncillo

Back room at El Mantoncillo

Seated with her at the back room of her place, black and white pictures of bullfighters and singers merge with colourful garnishes and mantoncillos. Ana’s passion is deeply reflected in her bar. She explains the importance of this kind of places: “A bar like the Mantoncillo, is much more than a bar. It is very important for flamenco art, for the city. Here, those moments called, angel moments, art moments or duende happen very often. Many times there are flamencos who are asked for things they are not able to do, these things only come out spontaneously when they are comfortable.” Ana puts a lot of passion into explaining it, to make us understand the importance of these places. “We are fostering encounters where the artists meet and these things arise.”

Flamenco has always been related to joy, partying, alcohol and excesses. It is not a lie that usually flamenco music is born from the enjoyment of pleasures along with a group of family and friends. In these meetings, the presence of a guitarist is not really necessary because singers usually present their voices a cappella, just with some claps setting the pace of the music.

Ana talks about the relationship between partying and flamenco: “It is very much related to partying because meetings are usually held at night, flamencos are very bohemian. They usually love to drink black whiskey, they feel very good, relaxed, and it feels great. Although the inspiration does not come from partying or alcohol, it comes from a lot of work.”

However, the theme of flamenco songs are usually related to other different feelings like sadness, sorrow, troubles and bad or wrong loves. This art is intimately linked to misfortunes, fatigue, grief and pain. Maybe the reason why experts say it is very profound and you can feel really deep feelings in this art.

Flamenco’s greatest singers and musicians have always been gypsies (almost exclusively). It is safe to say that gypsies are not the entire history of flamenco, but if they were removed from the equation, flamenco would not exist in any form. It is a kin to acknowledging that Jazz wouldn´t be possible without African-Americans.

“Without the gypsies it would not exist for sure, it is indisputable. But flamenco belongs to everyone.” Ana remarks and rapidly adds: “Flamenco belongs to whoever wants it, who feels flamenco, who participates, being a gypsy, being a pay (a Gypsy word for not-gypsies), being modern, being traditional, many will tell you: No, that’s not flamenco! But flamenco could come from Japan, from Segovia or from Algeria.” Ana’s definition of flamenco is probably the most accurate I have ever heard: “Flamenco is a way of life and a form of expression, and above all it is a major, primitive and profound art.”

In the Mantoncillo we find a flamenco singer, and also a guitarist. Something quite difficult to find in professional flamenco artists. Ezequiel Reina, 42, matches an excellent toque with the guitar and a more than acceptable singing voice. He is playing rumbas, happy and fun songs that make people dance and sing very easily. He plays and sings for half an hour until he takes a break to talk to Artefact in that secret room at the back of the bar.

The place has plenty of old pictures of the greatest figures of flamenco, old furniture and decorations, some frames from flamenco parties and obviously a couple of flamenco tables with their respective chairs, seemingly displayed for a private concert.

His long and curly grey-streaks hair accompany the traditional look of a cantaor. “Professionally I have been devoting myself to flamenco for 17 years, although with the guitar since it was bigger than me,” he says, with a laugh. “I am self-taught, nobody has taught me, I have bothered to go to one and another to discover different sounds,” he explains while having a sip of Cruzcampo (Spanish beer).

The figure of the singer (cantaor) in flamenco is and has always been the centre stage of flamenco, leaving the dance (baile) and the guitar (toque) in a secondary position and always following what the singer does; the cantaor controls what happens around him and it is through his cante where the feelings and meanings get into the rest of the artists and aficionados.

Ezequiel Reina

Ezequiel Reina playing at El Mantoncillo

Ezequiel seems to be more linked to the toque rather than the cante. “I’ve always felt like a musician, an artist, but I am a guitarist, I have always played the guitar. It was when I started writing my songs and I started to sing them when people liked it, so I threw myself into it, but I have always loved singing as a hobby.”

He lights a cigarette and continues: “I started listening to my grandfather, my uncle, but I listened to a lot of Camarón, Tomatito and Paco. I have listened to Camarón for a long time, maybe because I loved his music and also because it was the time when I was young.” He keeps talking about his musical preferences: “I love fusion, I love jazz music, Cuban music, folk music. I’ve worked in the Middle East, in Jordan, Egypt and I’ve always been looking for roots music, looking for that almost impure sound, that you have to polish, like when you’re looking for diamonds.”

Flamenco’s history, as the scholar Timothy Mitchell has commented, was never written by historians, only aficionados. The word flamenco came to be used in the nineteenth century and several theories exist regarding its precedence and meaning.

One of them is the suggestion that before gypsies went to Spain, they passed through Flanders and therefore came to be known as flamencos, the Spanish word for ‘Flemings’. Another popular belief is that flamenco, which is also the name of ‘flamingo’ in Spanish, was used to describe the posture of flamenco dancers. Another possibility is that flamenco derives from two Arabic words, ‘felag’ and ‘mengu’ which together means ‘fugitive peasant’. The most likely theory is that flamenco comes from the word ‘flama’, meaning flame, and it was used to describe the fiery gipsy character, their music and the dance.

A very important topic which is extremely difficult to write about is el duende. The ordinary usage in Castellano of the word signifies a mischievous kind of goblin, but in the case of flamenco, it has a really different meaning. As in most things connected with flamenco, the great poet Lorca had much to say about duende.

For Lorca duende was a power which climbs up inside the performer “from the soles of the feet, the spirit of the earth which scorches the artist to produce an inspired performance, a kind of Dionysian force that is directly connected with anguish, mystery and death which take over the performer, and without which his or her outpouring would have been merely ordinary.”

Asking Ezequiel about the duende, he pauses a few seconds, takes a pull on his cigarette and thinks about his definition, looking at the frames of the famous flamenco singers. “I think that the duende is often neither in flamenco, nor the musician, nor in the audience. It is in the sound itself, in the sound of where you are, with its noise and its melody. It is something that flows. There is a moment in which the sound reaches all the musicians, and there is a magical connection that can be perceived by everyone else. This is when that magic is created among all those who are there.”

Many flamenco artists have expressed that it is a really difficult task to find the duende, or the greatest version of themselves in a recording studio. Ezequiel quite agrees with this: “I feel that there is something strange in a studio that does not transmit”. He remembers one of his idols, Manuel Molina, and between laughs says: “When he was in the studio he used to say: ‘Who is going to say Ole in here?’ It is difficult to feel the duende there, but what we do is study a lot, play a lot, rehearse a lot because we know when we are in the studio it is difficult to be inspired. There is no duende, no magic, there is just a lot of work.”

Many stories and legends have been told in flamenco’s history. It was said of Manuel Torre that during performances, the veins on his forehead stood out and he ripped his clothing as if to release a flood of passion. His face and eyes became wild and his singing irresistible. Manuel Torre has been the singer who has generated the most legends, anecdotes, and mystical reflections.

Born at the end of the 19th century, Torre was the incarnation of the duende for enthusiasts. According to those who knew him, he was an anarchic gypsy, illiterate and he lived on the margin of everything, including his art. Although there are many songs kept from this artist, people who listened to him singing used to say that listening to his records is just listening to the echo of his voice.

Torre’s voice was a rough, typically gypsy voice, more like a wail or even a howl. A hoarse croak which constant singing, smoking and the consumption of alcohol had made even rougher.  Laurie Lee, the famous British poet, novelist and screenwriter, defined it as “a naked wail, an animal cry, thrown out, as it were, over burning rocks, a call half-lost in air but imperative and terrible, aesthetic, no doubt, but full of raw and genuine passion.”

In the Mantoncillo, Ezequiel talks about the difference in being gypsy: “The Gypsy lives in a different way, with other laws, with a different way of living, a different way of treating their elders and their children; a different economic lifestyle, and obviously, we transmit the art in a different way”. He explains and adds: “It happens in other cultures too, minority cultures that feel the attachment to their music, to their traditions; we create a different union, in a society where the laws are not fair for us. We live with that; sometimes life is not fair,” he affirms.

He remembers a phrase from one of the greatest cantaores of all times, Agujetas: “Agujetas said that you cannot sing flamenco well if you can read. You had to be illiterate!” He remembers, smiling and continues; “it’s a way of feeling it; exhaustion, pain, grief, and the hunger that there used to be, something which is difficult to transmit when you are singing.”

Camaron

Camaron poster at El Mantoncillos´ back room

If there is a figure to highlight in Flamenco in modern times, it is José Monge Cruz, better known as Camaron de la Isla. Cameron (which means shrimp in Spanish) was probably the most eminent flamenco singer of all time. His prodigious voice and the duende that the singer had was unparalleled in the recent history of flamenco. Born in La Isla de San Fernando, Cádiz, Camaron grew up surrounded by flamenco. His mother was a fine singer and she was very close with an important female singer of the times, La Perla de Cádiz.

Camaron was able to listen to the classic and pure flamenco in its optimum form at first hand. As a result, he learned from the best singers of the time. As well as having great respect for the traditional forms of flamenco, Camaron had tremendous success because he created a bridge between the old and the new. He adapted his singing to more modern styles and became a legend in his short lifetime (he died at 42). The alcohol and drugs that some believe he used to achieve special performances became an addiction and took the life of the man who was probably the greatest flamenco singer. His funeral attracted the kind of fervour that a pop-star generates, an indication of his reputation.

Coming back to London, the annual Flamenco Festival marked its 15th anniversary at Sadler´s Wells. The world´s finest flamenco dancers and musicians take to the stage. This year´s festival searches beyond the classical images of the flamenco dancer to rediscover forgotten spirits, reclaim womens’ stories and unearth the true characters behind the dramatic façade.

Flamenco Festival

Flamenco Festival 2018 billboard

“To mark the 15th anniversary of the festival this year, we called on a number of artists who, in different ways, have mined the roots of the art form and either given a novel interpretation of it or challenged its canons, bringing new perspectives to light,” Alistair Spalding, the Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler´s Wells, told us. The Flamenco Festival opened this year with some of the best cantaores. Tempo of Light is an all-star show featuring some of the leading voices in Spain today.

Carmen Linares, in her 60s, one of the living legends in flamenco, a master of the condo style (deep style) of singing is the first one. The rest of the group call her ‘mama’ during the show, not only because of her age but because this word means much more for gypsies. She was the first flamenco singer to perform with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In just five seconds of singing you can understand why that voice is so special. It emits such an expressive power that even if Spanish is not your first language you can feel exactly what her song is about.

To her side is one of the greatest young talents, Marina Heredia, who was raised surrounded by flamenco, as she is the daughter and granddaughter of flamenco singers. Her beautiful gypsy face attracts your attention until the moment she opens her mouth. It feels like a high volume of harmonic shouting. Sometimes charming and sweet, sometimes heartbreaking. As the New York Times defines Marina’s singing: “(A) mercurial, impassioned voice, moves between clarity and rasp, sorrow and rage, tragedy and exultation.”

In the middle of both great women´s voices, comes up Arcangel, who is considered the leading male voice of a new generation of flamenco vocalists. Also from gypsy roots, his tenor voice with a dark timbre but full of roughness and accuracy completes the wonderful trio of singers for the opening.

Of course, the rest of the group need to be mentioned: two magnetic guitarists and a young but no less talented percussionist with the cajón. Accompanied by the outstanding dancing of Ana Morales, a former principal dancer of Ballet Flamenco de Andalusia. She possessed both excellent footwork and graceful, expressive arm and upper body movements. Ana was energetically matching the expectations that her colleagues were providing to the audience with their music.

It was a magnificent example of cante jondo (deep song), such powerful voices merging together to express the deepest feelings of human beings. Cante jondo is the essence of the art of flamenco and forms the foundation from which a multiple of other styles developed. It is a dramatic singing; very intense songs about pain, sorrow, and hopelessness in a complicated musical structure. Buleria por solea, cabales, marinetes, saetas and soleas among others are the most frequent examples of cante jondo.

Then, there is an intermediate but no less deep style, which is the cante intermedio (usual song). This one could have a less serious theme but still comes from the cante jondo with its Andalusian roots. Malagueña, granaina, peteneras, tientos, taranta are some of the different palos (variants) of this cante.

The last and most commonly used kind of cante in Andalusian folklore is the cante chico (light song), The structure is not so complex; melodic songs, more colorful and easier to interpret. Bulerías, alegrías, sevillanas, nanas, fandangos and villancicos are some of the examples of this, the most amateur style.

It is very common to hear that the weather in Andalusia is relevant to the idiosyncrasy of its people, tradition, and culture. The unique sunshine that makes many film directors choose the Andalusian capital for their films warms the albero (yellow chalky sand which is used also in the bullfighting arenas) streets, more than 300 days per year.

The high volume of peoples’ voices, laughter and songs in this warm climate combined with the really cold sherries, horses’ carriages and the most colorful background, make Seville the capital of flamenco, partying and joy for a few days. Red and green vertical stripes merge with the shining blue sky and the yellow sand under the thousands of dancing feet.

Feria de Abril

Feria de Abril in Seville. Picture by Wikimedia

La Feria de Abril in Seville is perhaps the most famous and biggest concentration of flamenco culture in the world. The whole city gets in on the party. Most of the shops and businesses shut down and over a million people get together in El Real, a massive place where more than 1,000 casetas (prefabricated assemblies with a dance floor, bar and kitchen) are displayed for people to enjoy food, drink and, of course, sing and dance flamenco.

The only music you can listen to there is flamenco, mostly sevillanas, one of the multiple palos of cante chico in flamenco. Walking across El Real and enjoying the splendid weather that the geography offers in the South of Spain in Spring time, you can feel the spontaneity of this art and the joy that people emit. Flamenco flows as the songs and music are played in a lively way across the streets.

This is where another significant key to this emblematic art comes into play: the costumes. If you go to Seville in April (or to any other city when La Feria is being celebrated) you will find that most women are dressed in a different and colorful way. It is called flamenco dress, or gitana dress (gypsy dress).

The main features of these costumes are: the flower, every woman in a flamenco dress has to wear a flower on the side or top of her hair. The heels (you need to wear them not just to dance according to the standards) are also an esthetical complement; and the most important thing: a tight and colorful flounced dress. There is a whole industry behind this field nowadays, where every year the flamenco fashion re-defines the style and brings up new designs. For men, the most common look you will find is the ubiquitous suit. During the day, some men, mostly horseriders, dress in the typical flamenco men’s costume, with a very tight jacket and trousers, white shirt and traditional sunhat.

Getting deeper again into the flamenco roots, it is impossible not to talk about one of the best guitar players of all time in many people´s estimation, Paco de Lucia. The famous flamenco guitar player has been an iconic figure in the instrumental branch of the Spanish art. “Paco de Lucia has changed classic chords and it sounded like flamenco; that man has contributed a lot to flamenco with his guitar. He discovered there are flamenco notes in jazz music, in Caribbean music,” says Ezequiel when we asked about his artistic influences.

Paco de Lucia

Paco de Lucia [Wikimedia Commons]

Paco de Lucia played with the best artists crossing over successfully into other styles and was also considered a master in new forms of flamenco. Santana, Eric Clapton, Julio Iglesias, Placido Domingo and obviously Camarón, were some of the great artists he featured with. In 2014 a heart attack took the life of one of the world’s greatest guitar players.

Back in London, I have the fortune understand about a myth of flamenco. Turning again to the dancing layer of this art, I find out about the story of an incredible woman.

“It´s like a labyrinth, when you are deep inside yourself and you feel your deepest desires, your innermost yearnings, a maze with many doors appears, behind one there are pearls, behind the other, diamonds. What I am going to do? A step of diamonds? Ratatatata! But because I finish on beat, whatever I do is fine, now I am going through another door, and there is a world of light, of color, It´s alive! I am doing what I want, I am brave, I know that everything will turn out fine because my certainty in the rhythm makes my body obey to my soul.”

These words belong to a documentary film about Antonia Santiago Amador. Known as La Chana, she was one of the biggest stars in flamenco in the 60s and 70s. The self-taught gypsy dancer surprised the world with an innovative style and use of rhythm. Suddenly, she disappeared at the peak of her career. Her husband, ‘a bad gypsy’, as she used to say, took her out of flamenco professionally, probably under a cloud of misogyny and jealous egoism.

La Chana came back to the stage here in London with Gala Flamenca, celebrating flamenco puro, 30 years later, the world of flamenco has the privilege to watch her unique rhythm at Sadler´s Wells.

Gala Flamenca, undoubtedly the most anticipated show in this year´s venue, met the expectations of the full house. The show started with a prominent appearance: the artists, hidden by the dark and enveloping smoke, each danced to different songs, played by different singers, coming together in a dramatic and harmonic mix of rhythms that created the first ‘wows’ and screams from the crowd. Far from slowing down, the show created more and more admiration.

Antonio Canales, and Gema Moneo made an exceptional prelude to the most anticipated show: La Chana came up to the stage helped by an assistant/translator, and started what was an explosion of feelings. She tried her English, remembering she had already acted at Sadler’s Wells a long time ago and showing people her love for the crowd and the importance of love in life.

A translated speech that created a kind of funny and sweet welcoming to what was about to come. After 20 seconds of silence, she said in Spanish: “I forgot what I had to do…” and following laughs, cheers and supporting screams, she reacted and started her dance, always sitting down and accompanied by the three singers working also as a percussive chorus of claps.

La Chana

La Chana at Gala Flamenca

The speed of footwork was mesmerizing. It was exciting, not only because of the age of the dancer and the difficulty of her movements; she really made your feel fury, sadness, sorrow and forgiveness, a breathtaking show that could not have left anyone indifferent. An uninterrupted ten minutes standing ovation revealed how exciting and impressive this passionate show in North London was.

It is worth mentioning that La Chana is not able to walk by herself as she has severe health problems in her knees. But even sitting on a chair, the fine and raw style of her dance gets into your heart.

“There is not another like La Chana. That’s is why they call her ‘the goddess of the rhythm’. I was watching her and I felt my adrenaline skyrocket.” Angela Alonso says about one of her idols and continues: “This innate raw talent is very difficult to reach. It was the best performance I´ve watched in this theatre for years.” Angela affirms with emotion: “She is a source of inspiration.”

The experience is tough to describe; a mix of feelings came up during the show. Although many Spaniards have come to watch the spectacle, the vast majority of the crowd are English. It is a great opportunity to know how British people can feel flamenco.

Matt, 34, came with his Spanish girlfriend. “It´s really nice! I actually love the guitar; I am trying to learn.” Asking him to describe the difference of feelings within the couple he answers: “I think she feels it much more strongly, because she’s being doing it since she was a baby, it´s in her blood, but I experienced a lot of feelings tonight and I think anyone can reach these feelings.”

There are also a few Spaniards among the public. Mari, 26, comes from Ecija (Seville). She also thinks people from London can very much enjoy flamenco. “For sure, it is very pure, it´s just about feelings and although it´s really different from their traditions, they can enjoy it as much as I do.”

Flamenco dance is probably the most prominent side of this art around the world because it is possible for non-Spanish speakers to embody what flamenco songs express. Nowadays, there are flamenco festivals all around the world, and many artists merge their flamenco with other different styles, creating renewed versions of this art.

Flamenco is an important part of Andalusian and Spanish culture. An art form which is still distinguished by many of its traditional features. But there is something that is beyond the different cultures you will find in Seville, Tokyo or London, the timeless value of common human feelings which are evoked by all of the great forms of art. Flamenco is surely one of them.

 

 

 


Featured image and other images by Jesus Barrera