Name three things you most associate with Spain. Is one of your picks Flamenco?
Ah, Flamenco. That's a dance with lots of hand clapping and feet stomping, right? Well, something like that!
In fact, Flamenco can be song, it can be dance, or it can be guitar. Or it can be any combination of these three forms of artistic expression. Flamenco is about passion, spontaneity, individuality. It's in the blood.
Flamenco is not common across the whole of Spain, but rather is an art form practised little beyond Andalusia in Southern Spain, its place of birth. Its origins are hard to pin down, but are thought to include a fusion of Moorish, Gypsy and Andalusian influences, among others.
Flamenco as we know it today is probably around 200 years old. Its Golden Age was 1869-1910, when it became firmly established as a form of café entertainment. From the mid 19th century until the 1950s, theatres became the venue of choice, and by this time Flamenco was making a name for itself outside Spain. Now it was also being mixed, by those newly smitten by Flamenco, with other forms of music.
In the early days of Flamenco, singing was the primary form of expression, and guitar was merely an accompaniment. This is linked to the oral tradition of story telling through song. If you listen to a Flamenco singer, you may find it hard to understand the lyrics (whether you speak Spanish or not!) but you can quickly get the sense that a story is being told; often a rather melancholic one.
For flamenco dancing think oriental. Its exaggerated hand and arm movements should not detract from the graceful movement of the upper body. In addition to the brightly coloured, frilly dresses that we associate with Flamenco, dancers also wear special shoes, as the required technique in footwork is highly complex.
Nowadays, the flamenco guitar has gained popularity in its own right. In Arcos de la Frontera, where much of Speekee was filmed, live Flamenco performances are a highlight of the Summer. Here is a clip from way back in the 1970s - Paco Cepero playing Farruca.
Click on the "Menu" button in the bottom right of the video clip to see similar footage.
And here's a clip of some dancing: