It took months of physio to heal my husband’s injured shoulder, no he didn’t do it chopping firewood in the garden or lifting a sofa into place or even taking out the bins, but with a sudden movement, lifting his arms above his head and striking a pose, in imitation of a male Flamenco dancer. It is nearly four years now since our daughter was au-pairing in southern Spain and we went out to see her and visit the beautiful city of Seville. Part of our tour of the city included a visit to the Flamenco museum and in a darkish room I remember a wall of mirrors, encouraging you to copy one of the poses shown in photographs on the wall and to think about the hours of practice the dancers put in. I swished my imaginary skirts and my husband clasped his hands together and raised them above his head, olé and oops, that was it, a pose too far for a novice with no experience of Flamenco dance moves.
Last Saturday we were lucky enough to watch a display of Flamenco, there was a woman, a man and a guitarist, all Spanish, chatting to one another in the lingo, ‘shall we sing that one?’ ‘yes, you dance first and I’ll follow on,’ and so on.
The wooden floor reverberated as the woman dancer put her head up and marched to and fro, holding up her long flounced skirts at knee level. She twirled and stamped, singing as she went, the man also joining in as her dancing became all consuming. The polka dots on her dress were black on white and everything about her was clean lines, definite and certain. Each angle of the head was chosen with care and held with precision. She slowed down and re-captured every single audience member’s attention before slowly building up the pace again, all of us entranced by the speed of her tapping feet and clapping hands. The Flamenco dancers I have previously seen have always been very solemn, but this woman smiled throughout, she loved what she was doing and it came across at every moment of her performance. She smiled at the audience, directly into your eyes, not just a general smile and she grinned at her dancing partner when they were on stage together.
The man had his turn and strutted out with his hands on his hips, tight black trousers, little black waistcoat swinging and dark hair greased back out of the way. He struck an attitude with his whole body, sharing an arrogance and a proud Southern Spanish heritage. He tapped his slightly raised heels on the wooden floor, starting with a slow sultry pace, giving smouldering looks to no one in particular. Stamping faster and faster, he created a frenzy using his arms above his head (see above!) to create a physical manifestation of the ache and anguish of centuries. Flamenco has a long history of passing on the tragic, traditional stories of the Andalucian people, through singing and dancing. It is unusual to see it performed here in the UK but these performers encapsulated the spirit (known as the duende) of Flamenco and gave it to us, the audience, as a gift.
After the display we were encouraged to stand up and learn a few foot stamps, claps and twirling of the hands, as well as the hands-on-hips pose for extra attitude, which made you really feel the part. As the audience comprised folk aged 21 to over 80, this was ideal, as there was no movement of the feet apart from stamping and everyone joined in, even my husband, who was careful not to repeat his shoulder injury! It was a 21st birthday party and we were so pleased to have been invited and to share in this proud Flamenco heritage, olé !
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