Traveling to Spain without experiencing flamenco is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower… It’s a must!
To be entirely submerged in the culture, my peers and I attended two flamenco shows while in Spain. We also visited the world’s first and only flamenco museum, located in Seville.
We learned in the museum that the art of flamenco encompasses not only the dancers and their moves but the musicians and the instruments are also crucial. The voice intonations and the changing style of the pitch is what gives each flamenco routine a distinct flavor. We met two performers that described to us what flamenco means to them. “Flamenco allows me to express myself and be who I am,” said one of the performers. He also explained that passion is the driving force behind every flamenco show. “Without passion,” he said, “the audience can’t understand what we’re trying to express.”
While we visited the flamenco museum in Seville, we took a rhythm class with one of the musicians. Here, we learned about an important flamenco instrument, the box-drum or “cajón.” The instrument works as a sort of percussion system, very much like a drum set. Depending on where the “cajón” is played, or hit, a different sound emerges. In groups of twos, we each attempted to play a simple beat that the musician showed us. Most of us failed at the first try but, gradually, we picked up the beat eventually. It really looked easier than it was!
After that, we ventured around the museum, looking at the different exhibits. We saw how flamenco came to be and its ancient roots, stretching out all the way to Africa. Several multimedia presentations showed us interviews of famous flamenco dancers and their routines. Towards the end of the museum, we saw the styles of dress for flamenco dancers over the years and just how intricate the whole outfit can be. Luscious reds and yellows adorned the dresses while intricate hair pins were displayed on mannequins.
We even took a flamenco dancing class in the museum with a renowned choreographer and dancer. He taught us a basic routine where we were able to pick up on the key moves of flamenco. We had a chance to experience first-hand all the effort and dedication that it takes to produce a quality performance.
At the end of our time at the museum, we enjoyed a classic flamenco performance. This was a wonderful way to put together all that we had learned into a complete experience. The dancers performed sensual routines that captivated the audience from start to finish. The music had a way of beautifully complementing the performance with its distinct rhythms and styles. From the music to the outfits to even the complicated steps, we saw the show with an even more appreciative eye.
The second flamenco show we saw was in Granada, just about three hours away from Seville. This was a more informal flamenco show but still boasted traditional aspects. The dancers had several numbers where the flamenco style was more modern. Many soloists performed as opposed to a traditional couple flamenco routine. The show was set in a tavern-like cave in the mountains of Granada. We were served sangria and tinto de verano while we watched the performance. It was refreshing to see a traditional dance style in a different way than the norm.
As mentioned, flamenco is an integral part of Spanish culture and life. My time in Spain was only enhanced by these experiences where I was able to embrace flamenco and everything surrounding it.