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”