Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Flamenco Obsession

You've heard of jazz hands? I prefer flamenco hands. That sinuous arc and rotating elegance of fingers dancing in the air as the dancer beats the crap out of the floor. Oh yeah, I love me some flamenco. It originated in Andalusian Spain sometime in the middle ages, and came into it's own in mid-19th century, The Golden Age of Flamenco. Andalusian's who commonly lived in caves combined Spanish, Arabic and Gypsy influences. These were folk stories told through music, handed down through generations.

There are three mediums of the flamenco style: dance, guitar and song. I prefer guitar first, but the solo style. A traditional flamenco guitarist is never the star of the show and merely follows the singer and dancer. My second love is the dancer. Ah, those ruffled dresses! Those fierce men stomping and posing and mastering the floor like a bullfighter in the ring! Song, eh, not so much. I think it's because I don't know Spanish. Perhaps if I did, I'd get into the song much more.

Two days ago I attended the Jose Porcel ballet flamenco show at the Northrup Auditorium here on the U of M campus. My heart is still beating with joy. Even though the ballet style is a little more loose and free than the traditional stuff (men's postures are not so stiff and arrogant and lots of twirls and arm movement), it so rocked. When the dancers beat the floor with their shoes, even though they are on a wood stage, the earth, perhaps dozens of feet below concrete, feels that force and shudders. The rapid footwork absolutely thunders, and gets into your blood. From the hips down, the dancers are fierce, all business. And above the hips the arms are structured yet airy and so elegant. Even the men with their toreador stances master the air with a graceful cut.

Yeah, I'm a freak about the dance. But is it so wrong that I spent a lot of time ogling the fabulous dresses? The poses the women achieve, their bodies arced, arms out and fingers curled, works the dresses into some kind of art form. Amazing.

Hey, I even took flamenco dance classes about five years ago at the Zorongo school.  Beginners and Advanced Beginners.  I can do the flamenco hands.  I can do the footwork.  But to put the two together?  You gotta be kidding me!  My body doesn't work that way.  My brain makes me physically stop and stare at either feet or hands when I attempt to mix the two in some semblance of dance.  Sigh...  I still have the skirt and shoes.  Someday I'll try again.  When I don't have to fight rush hour traffic in the middle of Minneapolis to get to the classroom.  

You might get a taste of the flamenco dance by watching Dancing With The Stars, when they do their paso dobles. The paso is not traditional flamenco, but it mimics the flamenco dancer and bullfighter. It's close enough for me. It was used marvelously in the movie Strictly Ballroom. Anyone seen that? How many ways did that movie freakin' rock? Oh yeah! It's got ballroom and touches of flamenco in the paso doble. The final dance competition scene where Fran and Scott are disqualified during their paso doble is killer. Remember the grizzled old Spanish dancer?  "Show me. Show me your paso doble!" Watch this movie. 'nuf said.

So I thought I'd try to embed a YouTube video of the bulierias, one of my favorite flamenco dances and guitar compositions. This highlights the graceful armwork and the rapid footwork.  It's a fierce kind of 'Really?  I dare you!' mocking sort of dance.  This chick means business, yes? (Okay, so couldn't figure the embedding part out. Click here to go to the video.)

I wanted you all to be able to listen to some of the different forms of flamenco, and Amazon has a great MP3 program where you can listen to 30 second clips from songs. So here's a link to one album with various forms of the flamenco style. Listen to the zapateado. It's all about the footwork in that song. FAST footwork. (To listen just click on the little arrows to the left of the songs.)  Sabicas is the rock star of the flamenco guitar soloist world. Give him a listen, too. Okay, and I can't resist, here's a link to the Strictly Ballroom soundtrack. Check out track #7 for Fran and Scott's paso doble.

Do you like flamenco? Ever had the opportunity to attend a concert? What's your favorite kind of dance to obsess over? Or let's just talk obsessions. Got a favorite obsession that you love to do/read about/talk about/watch?


JulieLeto said...

Oh my GOD, Michele! I'm totally a flamenco fan. If you ever get down to Tampa, me. I'll take you to this restaurant that has a world-renowned flamenco troupe and we can do dinner and a show!

Betina Krahn said...

All right! Flamenco! I love to watch the dancing. But I'm especially fond of the guitars-- have several cd's of fusion flamenco artists. Jesse Cook anyone? Billy McLaughlin. Ottmar Liebert. Govi. Strunz and Farah. and the inimtable Shahin and Sepehr. Wow. Great stuff!

Such life and such passion. I would LOVE to see you dancing the flamenco, Michele! Must be a great aerobic workout!

Michele Hauf said...

julileto - You're on! I'd love to visit a restaurant like that!

Yes, Betina, Jesse Cook and Ottmar. You should check out Willie and Lobo for a kinda surf-flamenco style. But it's Sabicas and Paco Lucia for the guitar stuff that is flamenco puro!

Helen Brenna said...

I'm there with you, Michele. So sensual. There used to be a spanish restaurant in the uptown area that had a flamenco dancer right in the middle of the tables on wednesday nights. What a fun night out.

And don't get me going on the tango. Oh, man.

I had the pleasure of writing spanish dance scenes in my 3/09 NASCAR book and had so much fun researching. Could watch Al Pacino's Scent of a Woman's tango all day long.

Cindy Gerard said...

MIchele - thanks for the morning entertainment. Honestly, I hadn't given flamenco dancing much thought but i love to watch Max do the Paso on Dancing with the stars. I LOVE this clip about the dance. Yes, the passion! The dresses! The drama! What's not to love.
My passion right now is Franco on Rescue Me. That show and that man push all my buttons. Yowser!

Michele Hauf said...

Helen, the tango! Saw a Tango show at the Northrup once. Loved it. Though not as fascinated by it's history as flamenco (not that Tango history isn't fascinating).

Cindy, I've never watched Rescue Me, though every time I see the commercials I think 'I gotta watch that!'. And yeah, Maks, from Dancing. Sigh... Now that Misty May Traenor is out that means Maks is out too! Whaaaaa

Michele Hauf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Fascinating post, Michele! I just wanted to thank you for it, so popped over from the rss reader!!

I'm looking forward to reading Winter Kissed -- great concept!!

Kylie said...

Julie and Michelle--I wanna come! I wanna come!

I loooove to watch dancing. Ballet. Jazz. Tap. Salsa. Flamenco. I'm not a fan of dancing with the stars only because I'm never much of a TV watcher at all. But I do love to go watch dance.

As for my ability...five years of tap and ballet improved my ability to walk upright I suppose, LOL! But don't ask me to dance and clap my hands at the same time! That seems beyond me.

M. said...

I adore flamenco and it's the only dance style besides ballet I've ever bought tickets for. The only thing I don't quite get is why the dancers look so angry all the time. Intellectually I know it's supposed to be 'passionate', but the sense that comes across to me is 'really ticked off'. That's why I liked your picture of the lady in pink so much.

Debra Dixon said...

I *loved* STRICTLY BALLROOM. Loved it. And I'm a big DANCING WITH THE STARS fan. When they get Paso right, it's fab. When it's's very very bad. (g)

I would love to take dancing. My mom teaching line dancing but I'd also love to do partner dancing. The guitar dude (nod to surfer dude) is not home regularly enough to enroll in classes with me because he travels for work so much.

Playground Monitor said...

I LOVE Strictly Ballroom! And when the DH and I lived in Europe, we had the chance to go to Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain. One of the excursions we took was an evening at a flamenco club. It's awesome to watch it up close.

The DH and I took ballroom lessons a while back. No flamenco or even paso doble, but we learned the waltz, tango, cha-cha and swing. We want to go back once my foot is healed enough to put my ballroom shoes back on. Yep, I have some sparkly silver ballroom shoes that make me feel like one of the DWTS pros when I wear them. I just wish my dancing skill equaled the awesomeness of my shoes.

Needless to say DWTS is on our DVR to automatically record. I'm so sad Maks and Misty had to withdraw. She showed such potential to win and well Maks... he has such a fine physique. ;-)


Cindy Gerard said...

Michele - I think that when I come to the Twin Cities in Nov and you and Helen and Lois and I do our book signings that YOU ought to slip into your sexy flamenco dress and put on a performance. Maybe you can teach us a thing or two???

Michele Hauf said...

Kylie, I think any kind of dance would just be great for the body and to keep it toned. I seriously need to look into going back to classes.

M, yes that ticked off look! It goes back to the origins of the gypsies telling stories in the caves of hardships and angst and all that stuff. I think the Fandango is a pretty happy dance, and the Maleguena. I did see a lot of smiles at the concert which sort of bothered me because I wanted them to be more serious!

You know, ladies, the hubby and I recently had the 'we should take ballroom classes' discussion. We have it, and then forget about it. BUt if the daughter is getting married next year, we'd like to be able to move a little on the dance floor. Last time I saw the hubby dance was on our wedding day. Oy. The guy does need some help!

Playground Monitor said...

Ballroom lessons are fun and great exercise as well. When #1 son got married 3 years ago they had a great band at the reception. The DH and I got up and danced. My mother told me that #2 son remarked to her, "I had no idea they could dance like that." LOL! It's always nice to spring something on the kids and have them think you're cool.

Michele Hauf said...

Oh dear, no concerts, Cindy!

I know, Marilyn, that would be a fun surprise. But first the hubby has got to learn how to keep a beat! :-)

Susan Kay Law said...

Count me as a SIMPLY BALLROOM fan, too. What an odd, wonderful little movie.


Michele Hauf said...

Yes, Simply Ballroom was a Baz Luhrman trilogy, including Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet (with Leonardo DeCaprio).

I LOVE Moulin Rouge. Love, love, love! Watched Romeo and didn't really get into it, but it was okay.

The whole visual splendor of all three films, though, was amazing. I want to get a big screen TV just for watching those movies! :-)

Christie Ridgway said...

I wonder if you have to learn flamenco when you're little? Get it imprinted on the brain early.

Surfer Guy and I took ballroom dancing in college. We got better, but we're still hampered by our foot-plus difference in size. It would be fun to do again. I took years of tap and ballet (was on toe shoes!) and still love to watch any kind of dance.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Michele, I have a friend who moved from New York City (born and raised) to Bismarck ND when we lived there. She taught modern dance, but she studied flamenco. Whenever she went home for a visit, she took a lesson at her old Manhattan studio. I was there once and went with her. What fun! I just watched, of course, envious as all get out. Irene came to visit us here one time when a flemenco troupe was doing a show in Mpls and she MADE us go. Actually, we were both eager. Clyde LOVED it!

Michele Hauf said...

Yeah, Christie, I beat the flamenco babies are born clapping out a beat and banging their bottles in time to their parents' movements. L-)

Kathy, I took the hubby to a flamenco show years back and he loved it too. I think because it's pretty macho the guys don't feel so badly about liking it. Now if it was waltzing or jazzy stuff, the hubby would be thumbs down.

Estella said...

I am not a dance fan, except for ice dancing.

lois greiman said...

Strictly Ballroom really is a great movie.

For me almost all kinds of dancing is great. Wish I had gone with you, Hauf

Michele Hauf said...

Next time I'll invite you, Lois. It was a last-minute ticket purchase and I was trying to think who I could invite , but then decided solo was just fine, and better seat that way. ;-)

TG said...

_Shall We Dance_, a japanese movie with english subtitles, is a charming dance movie. It might be an option for the next time your video stores don't have _Simply Ballroom_.