The Spanish Dance
In flamenco a dancer and guitarist must integrate according to a mathematical process at every step along the way. A dancer steps out a llamada which is the theme phrase for the dance and thereafter pilots the music into the changes of tempo and accent for the variations. Dancer and guitarist create interplay of syncopated and crossing rhythms while the guitarist pursues a sequence of traditional tunes (falsetas) suited exactly to the rhythmic variations as they unfold.
In one of his works the English poet and artist William Blake (1757-1827) wrote: “Art and science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars”. Traditional flamenco is a working demonstration of this principle.
A dancer who has acquired the skills and the knowledge to perform according to this tradition in dances such as Alegrias, Bulerias, Soleares, Seguiriyas, Zapateado, et al, would be regarded as “enterao” (very knowledgeable) in the lexicon of the Andalusian environment where flamenco had its birth.
I had the good fortune to study in Spain with the legendary Juan Sanchez (Estampio) 1882-1957. Caballero Bonald in his book, “Andalusian Dances”, writes in part about Estampio: “He was in his own time the most accomplished, the most lasting guardian of all the traditional purity of Spanish Jondo.” The Andalusian term for flamenco is Cante Jondo (Deep Song).
Again, Regino Sainz de la Maza wrote about Estampio in 1956 as follows: “Estampio is today the repository of the great tradition. Master of the noble style, his advice and teachings are still articles of faith and constitute a treasure of incalculable worth for those who aspire to represent Spanish dancing in its purest form”.
The other area of Spanish dance I studied in Spain is the Bolero School (Escuela Bolera). The Pericet family whose association with this form of Andalusian dance reaches back many generations have preserved and codified its vocabulary of steps and figures. This traditional baile de las zapatillas (slipper dancing)–de palillos (with castanets) had its origin in Andalusian songs accompanied by guitar.
The Pericets divided the technique into three courses. Having acquired proficiency in the Escuela a dancer may go on to study a repertoire of dances such as Sevillanas Boleras, Seguidillas Manchegas, Panaderos de la Flamenca, Malaguenas, Bolero Robado o Liso, Cachucha and Ole de la Curra.
I studied with the Pericets in Spain and I am happy that I had decided to take on the challenge that this work offers. Few people away from Spain have a proper knowledge of this material.
The National Company from Spain that performed in the Los Angeles area in 1979 included two younger members of the Pericet family who danced Sevillanas Boleras. A student of mine who witnessed a performance was elated to discover the Pericets performed the dance precisely as I had taught it to her.
The same Pericet pair danced a Cachucha in the Margot Fonteyn filmed series on dance, which we saw in 1982.
May I be permitted a final historical footnote. The French illustrator and painter Paul Gustave Dore, 1833-1883, traveled to Spain with Baron Jean-Charles D’Avillier to do the illustrations for the Baron’s book, “Spain”, c. 1876. The writer described an Ole de la Curra danced by “La Nena”. Among the illustrations there is a pen and ink drawing of a dancer performing a Bolero. A guitarist accompanies her and the marvelous black and white sketch shows her in the act of doing a vuelta de pecho straight out of the Primer Curso of the Pericet school.