Thoughts on the concept of the woman dancing in Flamenco
It is not my custom or desire to comment on world events. I am a person of the theater and remain apart from ideological and political matters. In this one instance I see a parallel to the art to which I have devoted most of my existence.
In the world of events over the last year, I am caught up in a preponderance of conflicting ideas and forces changing the way we live. A disastrous pandemic and political upheaval I have never seen in my lifetime.
I remain liberal in my outlook on the global scene although never progressive or extreme in any sense of the word.
As an artist who has performed in other parts of the globe and have friends of numerous other nationalities and races I consider myself “a citizen of the world.”
To focus on the particular point in this subject, having known Spain and its culture, I found that in most cases, the woman in family life is very strong. I would call it a matriarchal society. This seems to permeate the psyche of the population and I have noted evidence of this.
Waldo Frank, a writer of the 1920’s, an American, but highly versed in Hispanic Culture wrote about the Spanish speaking world. In his book, “Virgin Spain” (1926) his chapters on the Andalusian Dance and its practitioners, he brings out some facets of this idea.
His writing approach is poetic and symphonic. In descriptions of the performers. I think he saw the essence of the work which we refer to as flamenco. Without writing about the structure or form, his summation of a woman dancing gives a portrait of the true nature of this genre.
Because flamenco is not notated, the score is written as the dance proceeds. The performer is the conductor and guitarists and singers must obey the percussive lead of the dancer. I have put down these comments again and again. The form is poorly understood and rather esoteric and arcane. The responsibility lies on the dancer and to have this knowledge is imperative.
Frank writes “The woman dancing in flamenco is “mother, teacher and priestess.” This is in a symbolic sense. As metaphor, it is not to taken literately. The signals given in the dance are built in and function to move the dance patterns smoothly one into the other. The llamada, (call) closes the door on the passage just completed and in the same action opens the door to the next.
Robert Graves, writes in his book ,” The White Goddess”, In Mythology, the two headed god Janus signified a new beginning looking both backward and forward. January is named after him. But before Janus thousands of years before , a two headed goddess named PostVorta and Antevorta, was a symbol of this concept. She who looked both backward and forward : She had the power to shut what was open and open what was shut, as the hinge which connects the door: the door on which the year swung”
This obviously relates to the Seasonal Pattern on Earth. In prehistoric times the dependence on sustenance from Mother Earth was paramount. Ritual dominated society.
Flamenco is a throwback to the endless chain of the rhythm on our planet. It is Universal.
In an uncanny way the Andalusian dance reflects this because of its very nature. It is a continuum.
This acknowledges that the male dancer also must follow the rules and law of the rhythm ( compás) but the male role seems meant to be a lesser figure within this art. This is not to diminish in any way the dynamics and tremendous artistry displayed by many marvelous male artists.
My message here is leading up to the point that I am a feminist.
I have always been pleased that so many women are holding prominent positions in government all over the world. It is only a hundred years since women were granted the right to vote in the United States and have a voice.
The recent election which includes the vice presidency of a woman is a great lift to me.
Waldo Frank further states that the woman dancing sends a message of “love vision and sacrifice; as opposed to lust, nakedness, and madness”
Intensive work is continuing on the Inesita documentary about her career and life experience as an artist in this fascinating field.
Here is a photo out of the past taken as an action image in London, England during the two years spent there..
On Friday, August 28, we essentially did a ‘wrap-up”on the Inesita Documentary which began on May 25 2019. It was an extremely complicated endeavor and exhausting in its details. The location chosen was El Arte Flamenco Dance Theater The Center for World Dance. Clarita, the dancer and singer conducts her classes, workshops, performances and private lessons under these auspices. Since Clarita and Inesita have worked together very often over the years, this space was a logical place to work on the Documentary. During the session Inesita was interviewed for the second time to elaborate on her life work and varied career.
An interview was also conducted featuring Clarita herself and her career and background. Mario Colangelo directed and filmed along with the cameraman, Camilo Godoy . Most of the shooting involved capturing moments from Inesita’s dances which have great scope and variety in the flamenco idiom. The physical activity itself was arduous and more taxing than a full concert evening. The accompanying images are a sample of the actual work and preparation in the filming. Also included are real dance images and a photo of the participants in the session.
In response to the writer of a recent reply addressed to Inesita on YouTube I wish to clarify some points that are brought up in his very flattering comment on my performance.
I did post an immediate reply thanking the writer for his praise of my work.
In setting the record straight I want to point out that film and video are entirely different mediums than a live performance in a theater or concert hall or even a club or bar. The making of a dance in film is a process which includes much technology: recording, camera angles, and editing, etc.
I differed with the writer ( whom I am sure is sincere in this commentary) regarding a comparison with the actress, Arlene Dahl. She was a wonderful actress and did a very fine and competent job of her role. Of course she is not a dancer and certainly did not appear “clumsy” playing her part. I also want to point out that dancers are not athletes. The training required to achieve the necessary technique to perform Flamenco dance or any dance discipline is arduous requiring years of study and practice!
The rehearsal of the entire sequence I was involved in took five weeks of shooting, recording and other aspects of movie making. The dance I did was a Farruca, a genuine example of this male style. It contained about nine minutes of material from which Nick Castle, (the marvelous dance director who was responsible for the entire production) selected what he needed from me to fit in to a one minute and twenty-two seconds sequence. The original dance was full length. I had performed this number many times and I was quite familiar with all the elements. The weeks of time spent on the set at Paramount Studios were concerned with the process of film making.
Also, the “pirouettes” I did were of course, Spanish “Vueltas” or turns out of the vocabulary of Spanish dance.
The gorgeous costume was created by Edith Head, a famous film designer of that era. Amusingly enough this creation had to have on hand two copies of the trousers, three hats, and two pairs of shoes in order to insure that in case of damage there was back up!
All in all I do appreciate these unexpected and very wonderful compliments from the public who have seen the film. It is an honor I treasure. Thank You
The reply from the writer mentioned above: He used the name Flautroy.
“Inesita. Wow. You were fantastic. As a matter of fact, I think you stole that whole first act. You were so good that I stopped the movie and tried to look you up on Google, I saw that short YouTube clip of you doing the Flamenco It was fantastic, You were the best part of the first act of the Movie. Couldn’t believe how fantastic your were. Arlene Dahl looked positively clumsy in comparison to your talent, You are a marvelous athlete. Can you tell us how much you had to rehearse to get that number down pat? People do not realize how difficult musicals can be and the amount of athleticism and talent that is required. because you make it look so easy. The fitness level of you actors in musicals is just amazing. That is one of the finest musical numbers that I have ever seen. And the pirouettes. So perfectly executed and balanced. I was shocked at how good your were. and your incredible timing. Your costume was excellent as well. What a fantastic performance!”
One of the most typical dance figures in the flamenco vocabulary is the “stork” pose, “cigüeña“. Used by male dances in Farruca and Zapateado it has a distinctive character and feeling. I have used it myself when performing these dances in masculine costume and it adds a special import in my view to the Jondo repertoire.
The Soleá offers an expressive aspect ,although abstract, which presents sadness without resignation — often a struggle against odds.