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Flamenco. An old passion rekindled

September 2015 | Тенденции | Ночь | Barcelona

In few places aside from Andalusia and Madrid has flamenco been so warmly received and from such an early date as in Catalonia, and quite particularly in the city of Barcelona.
Sara Baras
Guitar player
Carmen Amaya
Vicente Escudero

The first reliable date on flamenco artists in the city of Barcelona and on the places where they performed date back to the last half of the 19th century, although there is no lack of evidence here of an earlier presence of “pre-flamenco” music (that is to say, of songs, dances and guitar techniques that share many of the characteristics and expressions of this style). In short, Barcelona’s continuous fruitful relationship with flamenco reaches far more than a hundred years back in time.

In the last two decades of the 19th century and the first three of the 20th, Barcelona was one of the foremost flamenco centres in Spain. Indeed, it stood among the cities with the largest number of flamenco clubs and performances, featuring appearances of practically all the great figures.

Almost all of the Barcelona’s flamenco clubs were located in the area that gave shape to the city’s so called “golden triangle of flamenco”. The triangle’s vertex was formed by the square of El Portal de la Pau, its first side rising up on the right along Rambla de Santa Mònica and Rambla dels Caputxins; its second side, which did not issue directly from the square but quite close by, ran along Avinguda del Paral.lel, while its third side was Carrer de Sant Pau, extending precisely from Rambla dels Caputxins to Paral.lel. Lastly, crossing the triangle as a bisector ran the avenue formerly called García Morato and now Drassanes. Few city quarters in Spain or perhaps no others at all have been the site of so many flamenco clubs at one time.

Expansion in Catalonia
The flamenco fever experienced by Barcelona spread to the rest of Catalonia as well. Towns like Tarragona, Lleida, Sabadell, San Cugat, Girona, Cornellà, Santa Coloma de Queralt, Sant Adrià and Manlleu, among many others, formed part of the essential flamenco route.

At the same time, many writers, painters, sculptors and musicians became flamenco enthusiasts, finding in this musical style the inspiration for their works and creations. Likewise, the first Catalan flamenco artists appeared, especially including the magnificent dancer and singer Carmen Amaya, and Barcelona became the home of the guitarist Miguel Borrull –the first of a dynasty of great guitarist and dancers-, and of Juanito el Dorado, El Cojo de Málaga, La Niña de Linares and Vicente Escudero. It should also be mentioned that Catalonia has its own styles of rumba and “garroting”.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the artists of the so called flamenco opera would keep the flame of flamenco burning in Catalonia and new creators would take up residence here, including, among others, José Beltrán and Niño de Vélez (in Cornellà), and Manuel Ávila (in Badalona), who were the creators, respectively, of a special “malagueña” and “murciana”. The first “peñas “ or flamenco circles arose in the 1960s, and the artists of the emigration (Jiménez Rejano, Manuel López, Andrés Márquez, Diego Garrido, José Miguel Cerro, Blas Maqueda, Garri de Sant Celoni, Rubito de Pastora, Cumbreño, El Chano, Rafael Cañizares…) lent new life to flamenco music while two outstanding teachers, Flora Albaicín and José de la Vega, opened their dance schools, training many of today’s most notable Catalan artists: Mónica Fernández, J. Manuel Huerta, Rafael Martos, Susana Escoda, Rosana Romero, Toni Moñiz, to name but a few, many of whom also studied under the great Ana Márquez.

Flamenco, today
Catalonia now holds a prominent place on the flamenco scene. It boasts an outstanding generation of artists (Mayte Martín, Ginesa Ortega, Duquende, Miguel Poveda, Montse Cortés, Miguel de la Tolea, Sara Flores, J.M. Cañizares, Chicuelo, J. Ramón Caro, Paco Heredia, Eduardo Cortés, Mónica Fernández, Toleito, Susana Escoda, Sara Barrero…) and every day more young people choose flamenco as their personal form of artistic expression, auguring a brilliant future for this unique style of music.

What’s more, flamenco is arousing passions once again in Catalonia. Growing numbers of people show an interest in it and new flamenco clubs are opening to meet the public’s demand. This exciting music has maintained its classic audience and drawn a new one that approaches it with an open mind, considering it a very special form of art and one of the most original expressions of Western culture. Indeed, university students often choose it as a subject of study and research. Flamenco, which has once again become a source of inspiration for plastic artists, is now included in cultural programmes and forms part of the general entertainment offering.

Carmen Amaya, the greatest dancer
Carmen Amaya was born in the Somorrostro  quarter in 1913 on, as she herself said, “All Souls’ Day”, that is, 2nd November. She died on Tuesday, 19 November 1963, in Begur. In her fifty years and 17 days of life she became the greatest flamenco dancer of all times. With her personal, masterful, uniquely inspired dancing, she captivated Spain, the Americas and Europe. Wherever she danced, she aroused passions and dazzled admiration. No longer with us, she will dance for ever in the winds.

Vicente Escudero, a versatile artist
Vicente Escudero (Valladolid, 27 Oct. 1888 – Barcelona, 4 Dec. 1980) was a dancer, choreographer, dance theoretician, lecturer, painter, writer and occasional actor and singer. With his stylized geometrical dance, of superb austerity and soberness, he blazed the way for many other artists. Even if it were only for this Decalogue of Flamenco Dance and his creation of the dance to “seguiriyas”, Vicente Escudero would deserve a very prominent place in flamenco music’s hall of fame.

TEXT | Francisco Hidalgo Gómez