Monday, August 1, 2016

Not quite Strictly

Fiesta night in your village. The band is onstage, they strike up Viva España and lots of couples head for the dance floor. The dance is a Pasodoble and it's danced all over Spain but Levante, the East of Spain, is its heartland. Even though the name Pasodoble suggests a double step it's actually a one step dance. The name derives from the music that was used by the military when soldiers marched at the double - at 120 paces per minute. The military music was later adopted by bullfight promoters and from there it was but a small step(!) to the dance floor.

The Jota is danced all over Spain, in various guises, but the most well known version comes from Aragon. It's fast paced and couples dance, with their hands raised above their heads, playing castanets. This is one of those dances that you tend to watch rather than do and most of the people dancing it will be wearing old fashioned regional clothing.

The Muiñeira is danced to the music of bagpipes, drums and tambourines throughout Galicia and Asturias. Clothes are traditional and often feature red and black. It's a lively dance and it's not uncommon for the dancers to include quite athletic jumps and turns in the choreography. Although the dance is couples based the dancers often form into circles which interact with each other.

Flamenco is a musical and dance style typical of Andalucia, Extremadura and Murcia. It's three main parts are el cante, el toque y el baile - singing, playing and dancing – with endless variations and mixes. There is controversy about its origins but it has existed, at least, since the 18th century. Although it's often associated with Gypsies there is plenty of evidence that the style originated because of the diverse mixture of the religious, cultural and ethnic groups that cohabited in Andalucia. After all there are Gypsies all over Europe but Flamenco was born in Andalucia and not in other Gypsy heartlands. Flamenco dancing is known for its emotional intensity, jutting chin, straight back, expressive use of the arms and rhythmic stamping of the feet.

Zambra is a dance performed by the Gypsies of Granada which has some similarities to belly dancing. The story is that this Moorish dance had to be "Christianised" in the 15th Century when the last Moorish stronghold of Granada fell to the Catholic Monarchs. If you ever visit the Sacromonte cave houses in Granada it's the dance style you will see there. Often the women wear exaggerated versions of the flouncy fiesta dresses.

The Seguidilla is an old Castilian folk song and dance. The name comes from the verb seguir, to follow. The dance is performed in couples, to the rhythm of guitars and drums, with the women dancers playing castanets. The dancers move their feet quickly but keep their upper body stiff. Think Riverdance. One characteristic of the dance, known as bien parado, has the dancers stopping at the end of a musical section while the instruments continue playing into the next.

The Sardana is the quintessential Catalan dance. Dancers join hands to produce big circles with the steps following complicated mathematical patterns. It's a slow dance regularly danced by ordinary people in the streets of Catalonia on their way to the doctors or coming home from the shops.  The sections, or tirades, in sardana music are divided into two styles – for the style called curts dancers keep their arms down and for the other, the llargs, raise them to the shoulder.

The Sevillana, named for the town of Seville, is probably the style of traditional dancing most widespread in Spain. It's the one that tourists imitate by raising their arms, clicking their fingers and moving their hips. Sevillanas can be slow or fast though the livelier versions are much more common. The basic song structure is of  four verses, or coplas, of four lines. The dance also has four types of dance steps though, once again, variations abound. It is often danced in pairs but there are plenty of exceptions and there is lots of choreography for groups.

The Bolero originated in Spain in the late 18th Century. It's a very fast dance, which can be danced in couples or alone with lots of sudden pauses and sharp turns. The bolero is usually accompanied by song, castanets and guitars with each four line verse having lyrics of five to seven syllables per line.

The Fandango is a musical form that appeared in the early 1700s. It's a lively, happy sort of dance for couples traditionally accompanied by palmas - hand clapping - guitars and castanets. By the late 18th century it had become fashionable among the aristocracy and was often included in contemporary zarzuelas, ballets and operas.

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