By Golareh Safarian
May 28, 2003
It's passionate. It's angry. It's flamenco.
More than just a Spanish art, flamenco has been used by the gypsies
of southern Spain as a form of protest against oppression and prejudice
for more than two centuries. The call for freedom and recognition
is evident in the dancer's elaborate foot stomping and the singer's
Although often regarded as the official dance of Spain, the roots
of flamenco can be traced to many different cultures including Indian
Composed of cantos (songs) and Bailes (dances), flamenco can take
on three different forms: grande or hondo (grand or deep), which
are intense and tragic, often resulting in the emotional transformation
of the performer known as duende; intermedio (intermediate), which
are slightly less serious dances with sometimes Oriental-sounding
music; and pequeño (small) which are lighter in tone and
often deal with subjects such as love, friendship and nature.
The bailes, especially those performed by men, often contain zapateado.
These are intricate toe and heel clicking steps that complement
the rhythms and chords of the songs. The woman's dance may also
contain some zapateado, but is mostly characterized by graceful
body and hand movements. The baile grande is believed to contain
some elements of the dance in India, where the Gypsies originated.
Cantos and bailes are often accompanies by jaleo, the rhythmic
finger snapping, hand clapping and shouting of the crowd.
During the 19th century, guitarra (guitar playing) became the third
element of flamenco and is today the soul of the genre. Although
many gypsies believe that the essence of flamenco has been lost,
thanks to commercial influences of the 20th century, this dance
symbolize the passion of the Spanish people.
That said, the pictures featured
here are of a flamenco class held in Santa Cruz, California.
The instructor, a 57 year-old flamenco veteran by the name of La
Romera, has been performing on stages in North America and Spain
for the last 30 years and has gained the respect of Spanish dancing
communities all around the world.
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