One of my main interests, when I visited Spain in January of 2020, was to watch an authentic – meaning not touristy – flamenco dance in Seville, the birthplace of flamenco. Once there, the next step was to find the right place for it.
But what is flamenco, after all? While its exact history may never be fully known, what we do know is that this exotic performance art is a mix of music, singing and dancing. It was brought to Andalusia by nomadic Gypsy tribes that arrived from the north of India around 1425. Many centuries later, Flamenco has become the embodiment of Spanish culture.
True flamenco is more felt than seen. The rhythms of the largely Arabic-style music serve as the background to dramatic steps and vibrant body movements connected to the dancer’s feelings. When it’s good, flamenco often brings passionate reactions from the audience. To watch a true flamenco dancer on a ‘tablao’ (flamenco stage) is to get immersed in the ways and sounds of the soulful Gypsy culture. In Andalusia there are many types of flamenco, depending on where it is performed.
The flamenco I saw in Seville turned out to be more commercial than what I expected (do your research if you’re looking for the authentic ones). But I found a good tablao in another Andalusian town – Granada. There, in a traditional Gypsy neighborhood, I watched in awe musicians and dancers improvising songs and steps that brought tears to many in the audience. True flamenco tends to do that.