The saying it takes a village to raise a child, can be applied to the birth of Flamenco dance. This art form was born in Spain and has grown into an elegant and intricate dance with characteristics from an array of cultures.
Carmen Romero is the director of Carmen Romero School of Flamenco Dance Arts. Being an artist of Flamenco for more than 37 years, Carmen states that many different cultures had a hand in the creation of what Flamenco dance is today. “Flamenco is a multicultural art form. It is a combination of different cultures and I think that’s why we can come together more easily. It speaks to different people,” Romero said.
She explains the different features certain cultures brought to Flamenco dance and music.
“In the singing there is Jewish cantor and Arabic quartertone slides. There is the African percussive end to it, as well as the Latin American song and musicality coming into it. There is lyrical movement from contemporary; classical movement from classical dance and Indian and Arabic dance in the hand gestures.”
Recalling the history of Flamenco, it did indeed originate from Spain. But the people who were in those regions were from many different countries.
“It is a curious mixture of different cultures,” she said. Then why is it that many people aren’t familiar with this dance, including a majority of the Latin community in Toronto?
“Flamenco dancing needs to be more out there,” Carmen said. “It is not something you go to the nightclub and do. You just aren’t going to go to a bar and do Flamenco.” Susana Froment, a Latin American grew up in the presence of well-known Latin dances like Salsa and Cumbia. Learning Flamenco for five years, Froment explains that this dance style has qualities that other Latin dances don’t offer, which many aren’t aware of.
“Flamenco is more exotic in terms of the movement, it is very complex and beautiful,” she said. “In dances like Cumbia, we do not have a chance to express ourselves. Here in class, we express our feelings and understand the music.” On the contrary, Linda Chapman, a non-Latino who has been learning from Carmen’s dance school for 2 years feels the representation of Flamenco is getting better and the best way to promote the dance style is through word of mouth.
“There is something about Flamenco that is kind of contagious,” she said. “You don’t know about it until you start talking to someone about it. It is kind of a thing that builds up in small communities back to a bigger community.” If more people were introduced to Flamenco, would they appreciate it, to the same extent as the more popular dance styles in society today?
Nelani Ratnalingam is a Hip-Hop dancer and choreographer for the Assassins dance team at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. She participated in one of Carmen Romero’s dance classes. Ratnalingam found the experience enjoyable and started to feel a sense of the depth the art form brings.
“If Flamenco dancing received as much exposure as other forms of Latin dance there would be a widespread interest to try this dance form,” she said. “There is a lot of room to try new things within Flamenco and I think many individuals will enjoy that aspect of it.”
Ratnalingam is considering to continue classes in Flamenco. “It made me experience realms of dance and movement that I have not explored before,” she said. “And as a dancer learning new forms of dance and ways to move that are foreign to you can only push one to become a better-rounded dancer.”
She decided to give Flamenco a chance, will you?