I went to Seville, Spain this semester with the hopes of learning Spanish—a familial duty I felt obligated to fulfill before I left for college, considering I was the only remaining Martín that did not know how to speak the language that our ancestors had once spoken with pride in the regions of Galicia and Castilla y León. What I stumbled upon was a new language entirely: flamenco.
After a visit to the Museo del Baile Flamenco, I realized that the best way to describe flamenco is kaleidoscopic. Not only does it involve combinations of singing, dancing, stomping, shouting, clapping, and finger-snapping, but flamenco was also born out of many cultures. You can still see these cultures present in various elements in the song and dance today. For example, the castanets come from Greek and Phoenician influence; the movement of the arms and the musical instruments are thanks to Indian, Arab, and Egyptian cultures; the percussion and the movement of the hips and shoulders can be traced back to the Atlantic-Caribbean; and the movement of the feet and the footwear come from France.
In this way, the music and dance itself is very emblematic of Andalucía’s multicultural capital, where the city’s main monument is a Cathedral that has a church bell tower (called La Giralda) built upon a Moorish minaret as its base.
The beauty of flamenco lies in its alphabet of seven main styles. You have alegría (happiness), seguirilla (pain and death), soleá (loneliness), tango (passion), guajira (sensuality), farruca (elegance), and bulería (seduction) to choose from to create countless unique expressions.
Feeling especially confident and spontaneous one day, I took a flamenco class with friends. To experience all seven styles in an hour was an equally incredible and chilling experience. What struck me was the power I felt when stomping my feet to the beat; flamenco gives you a means to take control of your feelings and express yourself in ways that words fall short—just like the words to describe my experience with flamenco are so hard to come by. I guess you will have to try it for yourself!