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Dance

It's angry
It's flamenco

By Golareh Safarian
May 28, 2003
The Iranian

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 sorrowful songs.

Although often regarded as the official dance of Spain, the roots of flamenco can be traced to many different cultures including Indian and Arabic.

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 continues to
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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