Hola Amigos of Flamenco

Hola amigos de flamenco. To be absolutely honest with you I must confess that I have added this page simply because I love this art form and I now live in the place of its birth.

I have not personally used this dance and music form in my sessions with Children with Special Needsthough I believe there are distinct possibilities to do so. But more of that later.

There is no generally agreed meaning of the word. There is though, general agreement as to its historical development. During the 9th and 10th centuries AD mass migration from the Punjabi Region of India took place.These migrants most likely belonged to the untouchable caste and would have included dancers, musicians and metalworkers amongst other occupations. These people, who became known as Romany and Gypsies, entered Europe by way of two main migratory routes.

No one would dispute that its home is Andulucia. In the 10th century about 1 million people lived in the city of Cordoba. Jews, Arabs, Berbers and Moors integrated with the local population and a wonderfully vibrant culture emerged from this amalgam.The first written account to mention “gitanos” (gypsies) in Barcelona dates from 1447. We must not forget that the Moors were in Spain for 800 years.

Gypsies had a particularly hard time during the Reconquista when they were forced by the authorities to live in ghettos. The persecution and isolation they experienced at this time was to prove very important to the art form. Like the Blues, this soulful music arose amongst and became the expression of an oppressed people.
In 1782 following the Leniency Edict life became easier for the gypsies and their music and dance bcame better known to the general spanish population.

This exciting art form consists of Cante (the song), baile (the dance) and guitarra (guitar playing). The most important musical element of Flamenco is without doubt the singing “cante”. Originally the only accompaniment to the song was handclapping “toque de palmas” or percussive instruments. The guitar is a 19th century addition. Musical influences are widely believed to have come from India, Persia, classical Andulucian music, music of the Islamic Empire, Jewish synagogue chants, moarabic forms, Arabic Zagal, Andulucian regional folk forms and West African influences which arrived by way of the slaves in the New World.

Less research has been done on flamenco dance than in the music.This art form shows distinct similarities to certain forms of East Indian dance. The deep plie (bend), outturned leg position, sharp angles of the body and arms, splayed fingers, rapid barrel turns and the stamping foot movements are all also to be found in Flamenco. Middle Eastern dance and Flamenco have very little in common.

Although to the uninitiated all seems to be spontaneous the songs and dances follow strict musical and poetic rules.Some dance forms are male others female but these distinctions are breaking down. The Ferruca was traditionally a mans’ dance but is now commonly performed by women too. Artistic gender barriers are breaking down all over the world. For example, traditionally in Africa, women were not allowed to play wooden drums but now do so in some areas.

1955 was in some ways a Flamenco Renaissance, as it started to be performed in theatres abroad, Antonio Mairena being a leading figure. I remember being thrilled as a child at seeing him and dance movement this company at Sadlers Wells, London, England.

As I mentioned I have not tried using either flamenco music or dance in my therapy sessions with children with special needs. I can see though that it might be possible to inspire the children to use the hand and head movements in their own dance compositions. None of the children I worked with could have dealt with the percussive footwork unless they had structured teaching sessions with this in mind. For me this would not have come into question because I use improvisational dance and do not teach a specific dance form. However, if any parents or careers experiment in this direction do please let me know how things went.

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