The red spotlight burns and a distinct aura of passion fills the stage, lit like a fuse. A building eruption waiting for release. In rapid succession comes a disciplined clapping and, with the utterance of a single chant, the stage explodes giving birth to a language of its own.
The dance speaks for itself, telling tales of love, oppression and internal conflict. The dancer’s heels crash to the floor, each with the resonance of a cracking whip, every step speaking for itself. Watching this spectacle of dance and music unfold, an inner intensity burns strongly, building to its own climax. This is not mere footwork and clapping; it is an emotional tale.
Such was the stage at Lisner Auditorium’s second annual Flamenco Festival, which ended Feb. 8. The festival was held in honor and celebration of Andalucia, the southern region of Spain known for giving birth to the Flamenco art of dance and music.
Featuring many of Spain’s greatest dance and musical artists, including Manuela Carrasco, Eva Yerbabuena, Antonio Canales and Vincente Amigo, the festival drew a warm and healthy welcome from a D.C community that filled shows.
The genre of Flamenco itself was born in the tradition of the gypsies who inhabit the Andalucian region. The region itself holds rich cultural traditions from the Greeks, Visigoths, Arabs, Jews, Romans, Gypsies and Phoenicians. Its culturally rich and diverse background proved to be a tinderbox during Ferdinand and Isabella’s conquest of Granada, where the persecution, expulsion and execution of such deviant groups were witnessed during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.
Such was the austerity that Flamenco was born under, a time where brutality, oppression and repression were commonplace. With such a foundation, the art has come to hold a reputation for speaking about life’s more harsh realities through the medium of its passionate dance and music.
Consisting originally of strong lamenting lyrics sung with the accompaniment of hand clapping (palmas) and the tapping of styled sticks (palo), the art has matured over the years to obtain the usage of both acoustic guitars and perhaps the most recognizable addition, dance (baile). The dance itself practices a combination of sinuous arm and body movement as well as intense heel and toe stamping (zapateado). It is this form of dancing that is mainly accredited for capturing the international eye in making the Flamenco known to the world.
Speaking with the acclaimed Grammy Award winning Flamenco guitarist Vincente Amigo, he described his own passion for the art as something that is played emotionally through himself to the audience around him. “There is no better way to perform in front of an audience than by performing for and through oneself.
“It’s an art that is of the moment, a bit different every time one performs it, abiding to the twists and turns of the performers own emotional self,” he said. “One has to do what they love and have passion for in life, without that, life can only be mere a contentment.”
At the end of it all, the dancers and musicians left the stage smiling and out of breath, giving it their all for the audience before them. It’s safe to say that the performance as a whole left the audience in the same state, breathless and smiling.