Flamenco: A Brief History

Striving to lead an active lifestyle, Christine Hendler regularly engages in flamenco, a style of dance that originated on the Iberian Peninsula. While it is most strongly associated with Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, flamenco resulted from strong Jewish influences and the cultural exchange that occurred during the Islamic invasion of Iberia in 771. The art of flamenco did not become a serious academic pursuit until the 1980s, leaving a great deal of its early development in the dark. The dance likely flourished in the Americas after Spanish colonization due to its suggestive movements, often considered too risqué for public performances in Europe.

The earliest mention of flamenco in literature comes in 1774, and scholars still disagree about how far back its roots stretch. Academics also argue about the use of musical accompaniment in the dance’s fledgling stages. The so-called Golden Age of Flamenco began in the late 1860s and lasted through the first decade of the 20th century, a period of rapid development for the dance. During this period, dancers were seen as artists, and spectators would pay to see flamenco performances. During this period, composers also wrote operas and musical scores with flamenco-inspired themes, driving the dance’s popularity. Throughout the 1920s, flamenco performances continued to increase in size and theatricality. Critics continue to argue whether this period jeopardized traditional flamenco style or inspired new dances that clearly paid homage to their ancestor.

Today, flamenco is a popular style around the world that many dancers and musicians study and perform. While some innovations certainly occur among dancers, most strive to preserve flamenco’s cultural significance by performing in strictly traditional manners. Emotion drives flamenco dances, creating tension in the crowd through the intensity of the dancers. The dance demands movement from the entire body, demonstrating the fierce passion of the dancers.

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