Carmen Romero is not only a passionate performer yet also passionate about teaching flamenco and has done so for over thirty years. Her activities extend beyond her own school in Toronto. Workshops in flamenco dance for beginners to professionals are offered in dance, music, theory and performance coaching.
Carmen has given lectures at the universities and colleges as well as high schools. Currently Carmen Romero is doing a lot of work in the public and private school sectors.
Below is a brief description of Flamenco. The information will change from time to time as new developments are discovered. So check in often.
HISTORY CULTURE ART
The following information is a brief explanation of flamenco
researched and edited by Carmen Romero for
The Carmen Romero School of Flamenco Dance Arts
WHAT IS FLAMENCO
The art of flamenco comes from complex social, cultural and historical processes from the fifteenth Century to the present. It is important to explain these processes through point of view from the gypsies who settled in Spain.
The first reference to gypsies was in 1447when they were reported to be in Barcelona, however another group had arrived in the South of Spain before this date, originally migrating from India to different parts of Europe, Africa and Asia around AD 1000.
The word Gitano (gypsy) originated from the Southern Spaniards who referred to these people from Egypt as Egiptanos and over the coarse of time it was reduced to gitanos yet it also described all of the migrants that settled in the sunny, warm terrain of Andalucia (Southern Spain).
On November 16, 2010 UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Right from the beginning these people earned a bad reputation for their vagabond lifestyle. They were known to be thieves and even murders. They were the undesirables of society.
Gitanos were associated with witch craft, the Evil Eye and fortune telling, strange rings in the ears and strange language, dancing and music which took place around camp fires believed to be involved in demonic ritual. George Borrow 19th Century historian wrote:
“ Formidable in point of number, their presence was an evil curse in whatever quarter they directed their steps…mules and horses where stolen, carried away to distant fairs and their disposed of flocks of sheep and goats were laid under requisition to assuage the hungry cravings of these thievish Comorants.”
OPPRESSION OF THE GITANOS.
From 1499-1783 the gypsies became objects of law by the monarchs attempting to force them out of their nomadic ways. This included King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, in the late 16th century King Phillip II, and Phillip III in 1663 and Charles the II all curbed the gitanos freedom and punished them by means of forcing them to settle in one place and engage in respectable work. Failure to comply condemned them to the galleys for six years. These forced settlements, created what are called Gitanarias or Barrios Gitanos (Gypsy Quarters) and through time they spread to several parts of Southern Spain such as, Cadiz, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Granada and Sevilla.
ACTIVITIES IN GITANARIAS
The gitanos lived in poverty. Men became blacksmiths and horse handlers. The women danced at night attracting the attention of the young and desolate aristocrats.
These gitanarias became a place of refuge for beggars, escaped criminals and most importantly the Jews and Moriscos. As Spain had ended the 700-year occupation of the Moors both Jews and Moriscos vanished from proper society and hide within the gypsy culture. All of the sudden gypsies were now involved in farming something that they originally were not very good at. As well these people had to adopt the Christian faith in fear of being discovered yet they continued to secretly practice their religion. The one binding link of the gypsy people was persecution. A shared common sense of injury and trauma lead them to seek relief and escape in some form of self-expression.
A juerga in reference to flamenco is an organized party or gathering where gypsies would get together to eat, drink, sing and dance. At first these were intimate gatherings yet in time the aristocrats would venture into the Gitanarias in search of a good night out. It was from these Juergas that the local tavern owners realized the business potential of these gatherings and so a new era evolved and the word flamenco, which applies to song, dance and guitar, did not come into use until the nineteenth century. Also it was during this time that the Café Cantantes sprung root into the Spanish culture.
By about 1850 Cante Flamenco (flamenco song) had become such popular entertainment that it was sung in the Cafe Cantantes (singing cabarets). While the songs of the Jondo (deep, serious) type predominated, other types of folk songs were introduced like Sevillanas (originally from the Jotas) and Rumba a Cuban influenced song from the "Ida y Vuelta" period when Spanish sailors returning from the voyages to South America brought these songs back and the gypsies made it their own. These songs were brought into the Cafe Cantantes to satisfy the growing public. This period gave rise to the professional performer.
In the 1960 Cafe Cantantes performances were called Cuadro Flamencos. The performers are seated in a semicircle on a stage called a tablao. The cuadro flamenco's loyalty to its gypsy past has not prevented the genre's evolution and the occasional influence from other musical traditions.
FLAMENCO OF TODAY
In the last 20 years, a new breed of flamencos surfaced, influenced by fusion-jazz, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music, which led to the integration of modern instruments.
The stylistic movements of the dance changed dramatically, as once the difference between man and woman was clearly defined by men's thunderous staccato footwork and women's sinuous arms, long back and graceful movements. Today men and woman are equals. Other genres of dance such as ballet, modern and jazz have found a new dance floor as contractions and isolation movements are incorporated into the flamenco vocabulary of expression.
In contrast to dance and music, the song (Cante Flamenco) have not changed in it's basic structure, though it's content has kept up with the times, expression of the human soul will always remain unchanged. This is the oldest element of flamenco.
Today, flamenco shares the same prestigious stages of all fine arts. Specialized lighting, technologically advanced sound and creative staging has spectacularized the art of flamenco for Theatre.
THE ART OF FLAMENCO
Contrary to popular belief, Flamenco is not primarily a dance style. It is first and foremost a folk song style that has undergone a peculiar, intense evolution: reflecting the Andalucia's multicultural heritage, it is made up of Arabic, Berber, African, Sephardic Jewish, European, and Gypsy influences.
Flamenco dance, when performed in its most authentic form, is a spontaneous interaction between singer, dancer, and guitarist. The artists improvise while remaining within a set of traditional structures such as characteristic rhythms and chords. Only by improvising can the flamenco artist give life to his/her imagination and impulsive freedom.
Flamenco dancing and guitar playing replicate the emotive, depth-exploring style of cante jondo, and the lighter, more playful styles of cante intermedio and cante chico.
These are the three generally accepted classifications for flamenco song:
cante jondo ("deep song"), intense, tragic lyrics that ventilate turbulent emotions like jealousy, hate, rage, despair, and grief...ex. Soleares, Tarantos, Siguiriyas;
cante intermedio ("intermediate song"), moderately serious, the music sometimes Oriental-sounding, ex. Zambra;
cante chico ("small song"), light songs of exuberance, love, and nature, ex. Alegrías, Bulerías, Tangos.
Flamenco is an art "...of letting go, of tension dominated but that
never appeases... both primitive and refined...on one hand anarchical,
Spontaneous, and on the other ritualistic, orderly..." (Frédéric Deval)
Flamenco is performed routinely by several dancers in a collective choreographic work. This is primarily as a crowd pleaser. This reflects the current conflict between the essence of flamenco and what can be seen to be the commercial version of the art. Flamenco is most true and effective as a solo improvised dance. A flamenco dancer cannot be tied down by a choreography imposed by someone else and painstakingly worked out with the guitarist, the singer, and the other accompanists.
In the past, mostly men performed the powerful high-speed and intricate footwork. The women, with very few exceptions, used almost no footwork at all but concentrated largely on the more feminine arm and hand movements. Since Carmen Amaya, Spain's most treasured dancer, female dancers are in direct competition with the men. The actual technique for the dance has also changed, as it must endure more than a single pirouette and body isolations typically seen in Arabic, jazz and modern
dance, not to mention the far more intricate polyrhythms in the movement, palmas (rhythmic hand clapping) and taconeo (footwork).
INSTRUMENTS OF SPANISH AND FLAMENCO MUSIC:
CASTANETS: originated in 1122 a. in China under the dynasty of Chou. In this time the instrument consisted of 12 broad wooden sticks held together by a chord. The sound was created by hitting the sticks against the palm of the left hand. At the end of the 18th century castanets took on a drastic change. The shape changed into the form of chestnuts the chords were placed at the top of the castanets. Furthermore, the instrument now hung off the thumbs and the sound of the castanet was changed to create a deeper sound in the left hand and a lighter in the right. At the end of the 18th centuries new schools of dance opened were the Bailes de Palillos were taught.
La Voz Flamenca: there are different kinds of vocal sounds that singers are categorized by.
Voz afilla: raspy low voice.
Voz facil: fresh, clear.
Voz natura: natural.
Voz redonda: masquline voice.
CAJA/CAJON: a percussion instrument of Afro-Peruvian origins. There are many different designs some are in the shape of a square, rectangle or triangle box. They are hollow and have a sound whole in the back. To play it one would hit the box with the palms of their hands. Paco de Lucia was one of the first flamenco guitarists to use the caja in his ensemble and recording. The use of the caja in flamenco would have started around the early 1980's.
The Flamenco guitar revolution began in 1970 when Paco de Lucía combined the brash, emotional, and roughly played music of Niño Ricardo to the classical school of Ramón Montoya and Sabicas. Paco de Lucía emerged as an innovator without fear defying tradition by changing the way in which to hold and play the guitar. He thrilled audiences with his lightning speed picados (technique used to pick the strings instead of the traditional strumming), new rasgueados (technique for rhythmic strumming), intricate rhythms and explosive melodies.
Paco de Lucía opened the door to the expanding potential of the Flamenco Guitar. Guitarists today fuse Latin and jazz rhythms and melodies while remaining true to tradition. Before Paco de Lucía, the flamenco guitar gave inspiration to the non-Spaniards such as the classical composers Debussy, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Chabrier, Falla and Turina. Later its influences were incorporated by jazz maestros in works such as Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain and John Coltrane's Ole Coltrane. Flamenco guitar has ventured to pop and fusion music incorporating electrical guitars, keyboards, flutes and the Caja (box) a Peruvian percussion instrument. While the likes of The Gypsy Kings and Ottmar Liebert are not flamenco they are, however, examples of the flamenco influence on pop and fusion musicians. They gave the non-Spaniards a new albeit commercial means of appreciating flamenco.
For further reading:
Deep Song Timothy Mitchell
Flamenco Barbara Thiel-Cramer
Flamenco Edited by Claus Schreiner
The Language of Spanish Dance Matteo
Informative links on Flamenco