It´s been awhile since I´ve written about my adventures and I think it´s about time I reflect on everything that has happened in these past few weeks.
In the few months we´ve been dating, Ryan and I have shared quite a few holidays together (yes, I´m including our birthday´s as holidays) … Even though I´ve never been one to care too much about Valentine´s Day, it is always a fantastic feeling when you´re surprised with candy and flowers. The combiniation is simply perfect — especially coming from someone you´re crazy about.
Only three days later, we were celebrating Ryan´s 26th birthday. I don´t want to gloat, but I think I did a pretty good job with my gifts. Since the beginning of our time in Spain Ryan has mentioned, on more than one occasion, his interest in seeing a live flamenco performance. However, we had never gotten around to going to see a show. So, that´s what I bought — 2 tickets to see a show at a famous flamenco bar here in the center of Madrid. Yep.
I wasn´t worried about hiding the surprise from him until about a week before his birthday when he asked me if I wanted to go see flamenco soon. I was worried about how I was going to keep my gift a surprise. However, I just shrugged, made some uninterested noises and tried to change the subject. It worked.
He didn´t understand why I was so uninterested in seeing flamenco – as it has a big history and culture in Spain – but, it worked and I had one week to deter him from seeing a show. Hopefully it was going to be easy.
His birthday (also our 4th holiday in almost a 2 month period) rolled around that Thursday. He came over to my place and I gave him a couple small gifts before we went to the show.
We didn´t buy dinner, but splurged on a half bottle of wine for 10 euro (as our usual FULL bottle of wine costs between 1-3 euro, it was quite expensive). When we were brought to our table the plates, silver ware, wine glasses, and bread were already placed down. I assumed it was fair game to eat the bread. I´m almost 100% sure I was wrong. Oh well. Before the waiter huffed and puffed his way over to the table to aggressively take away our plates … and one untouched piece of bread … I had dug into the roll in front of me. Whooops. Proper table etiquette noted.
But despite the roll incident, the night continued…
The show was unbelievable.
The energy. The music. The skill. It was all so wonderful and breathtaking and unlike anything I’ve seen or heard before.
They moved their hips and wrists in a fluid and seductive way that captured your full attention. They stomped their feet to the rhythm of the music … and moved. They just moved.
I think it´s the history that really helps one to understand and feel the emotion in the song and dance. However, I don’t feel like I can sum it up with quite such detail since I do not know much about it except what little I have read. So, here’s an excerpt from a website I have found about flamenco:
“Flamenco history has only been documented for the past two hundred years or so, and anything before this time is open to debate and speculation.Much of what we know from before this time comes from stories and legends that have been passed down through family dynasties, in a similar way to the flamenco song itself. One thing we can be sure of is that flamenco in its original form was only voice, a primitive cry or chant accompanied only by the rhythm which would be beaten out on the floor by a wooden staff or cane.
These styles are known as Palo Secos, or dry styles, and they are the oldest forms of song known today.
The Toñas are the family of songs which represent these style and they include the toña, one of the oldest known styles, the martinetes, which are the songs of the blacksmiths, the rhythm being supplied by the hammer beating on the anvil, the carceleras or prison songs, and the debla, which at one time was thought to have had connections with a gypsy religious rite.
Flamenco is made up of four elements, Cante-Voice, Baile-Dance, Toque-Guitar, and the Jaleo, which roughly translated means “hell raising” and involves the handclapping, foot stomping, and shouts of encouragement.
Another important component of flamenco is the element known as duende, and this is shrouded in as much mystery as flamenco itself. Writers and poets over the years have given duende a magical and mysterious meaning, a spiritual significance that goes beyond human understanding.
The poet Federico Garcia Lorca romanticized duende saying, “Duende could only be present when one sensed that death possible.”
Many will say that duende can only be experienced in certain surroundings like an intimate flamenco session where a singer will be possessed by the dark tones of the song and the spirit will enter the mind and soul of anyone who opens up to it.
“Duende is a strange presence that everybody senses but no philosopher can explain,” or, “All that has dark sounds has duende.”
Whatever you believe, duende does exist, and to experience it, is one of the wonders of this mystical art.
Many believe flamenco to be the invention of the gypsies, and although they have been the main protagonists of the art, they are not its sole creators.
When the gypsies arrived in Andalucia from India around 1425, they brought with them many song and dance styles that have strong Indian connections. At this time Andalucía was still under Arab rule, and along with the Jews and the moors, the gypsies were soon to be persecuted by the Catholic monarchs and the inquisition.
The moors were forced to convert to Christianity, and failure to do so resulted in expulsion from Spain, the Jews suffered a similar fate, and the gypsies were subjected to some of the worst atrocities in an attempt to exterminate them as a race. Many laws were passed by various monarchs, which forbid them anything to do with their identity.
They were to stop wearing their style of dress, cease speaking in the Romany language, and to stop their wanderings and seek steady employment, which prohibited them obtaining money by the usual gypsy traits like horse dealing, trading at fairs, and sorcery. These laws and restrictions resulted in bands of gypsies, moors, and Jews taking refuge in treacherous mountainous areas, which were too desolate for the authorities to pursue them. These different cultures lived in relative harmony for many years, and the fusion of their music and dances are what we know today as flamenco.
In the eighteenth century attitude towards the gypsies changed considerably, which resulted in numerous bands of gypsies descending on the small villages and towns, bringing with them their exciting, seductive music- flamenco. At first this music was not considered worthy of attention, and flamenco was only performed in the homes and private get together of the gypsies. Their mysterious music and stimulating dances were soon to catch the attention of the romantic writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Stories abound of these strange people performing their wild and erotic dances and of the harsh unusual tones of their songs. It wasn’t long before the gachó, those not of gypsy lineage, became intrigued by this music, and gypsy singers were hired to entertain the señoritos, or “toffs” in private parties, know as Juergas, where the rich would entertain themselves with prostitutes, alcohol, and flamenco.” http://www.andalucia.com/flamenco/history.htm
I realize this is a lot of history to take in all at once, but it’s worth the read. It has continued to develop over the years, but this is a glance at the beginnings of this beautiful and yet intimidating and soulful dance. If you ever get the chance to see flamenco in Spain, it’s well worth it. I don’t know if words can really put the feeling and soul into this dance, it’s definitely something you must see, hear, smell, feel and completely experience in person. I’m sure you’ll leave just as blown away.