One year ago, I started my flamenco adventure with no idea how much I would change along the way because of this.
Just to be clear, I did not like flamenco music. I gazed upon this culture for the same reason most ignorants do: the dance. I needed inspiration to find a way for a woman to turn around… No, not even that. I needed a position of the arms that would evoke both strength and feminity. This association of words soon made me chocke when saying it, as if the arms of a woman can be other than feminine. So, I sometimes completed it by saying “strength and feminity as the society understands it”. This society that has the nerve to tell the individual who the are just to insure that this sick organism wouldn’t be disturbed by change. Anyway, back to flamenco…
So, I started looking at flamenco dance, dancers and documentaries. I found one podcast, than another, than more documentaries, than books. I started listening to the music, which is the core of the culture.
When I went to a flamenco show in Alicante in 2019, my ears were bleading. I found the vocals tiering, just like opera music. I realized both are acquired tastes. You have to educate yourself to like them. I loved the dance though, so powerful and individual, even when danced in two. It felt like it was about something other than mating.
My main motivation to dive deeper than the surface, the dance, into flamenco culture, was an online conference I attended around this time last year, from an university either in Stockholm or Oslo, where Thomas Talawa Prestø was speaker. He spoke about African dance and how it was appropriated by dancers from other cultures. What he said about appropriation stuck with me, and more than anything I didn’t want to appropriate a dance I knew nothing of, just that it seemed what I needed.
So I dived deep …er than I needed to because the project From an orange point of view isn’t about flamenco, it isn’t even about women in Spain specifically. If anything it should be about women in Romania.
I listened for 8 months almost exclusively to flamenco. After 3 months I started to like it. The first flamenco voice I liked was Lole Montoya, than Diego Carrasco who led me to my favorite, Remedios Amaya. After six months and a trip to Andalusia, I was jocking that with all the documentation I’ve done, all I’m left with is La queria from Maria Peláe.
After 8 months, I found it hard to listen to something else. I realized other music bores me now. I am going to France next year to see Zazie and Mylène Framer, but I discovered I cannot listen to their music anymore. It does not connect with me. Fortunately, at Mylene’s concert I am going for the public rather than for the show. I wonder if the way I perceive the public has changed, not necessarily due to flamenco, but to how my view on entertainment changed for the past year.
Lately, I only listen to Maria Peláe and Estrella Morente, coincidentally one is progressive and the other is conservative. I’ve been thinking this is all that remains with me from all I’ve researched, but I came across a performance by Remedios Amaya and it melted my heart.
I had a playlist with all the flamenco singers I came across. I do not have access to it anymore because I changed streaming platforms and it is highly unlikely I will recreate it, but I want to note that for a very long time most singers on it were male. I think I got to discover most of the female singers, especially guitarists, only when searching deliberately for them. Most podcasts and documentaries were mentioning male singers. Dance is another story.
The impact of studying this culture had on me was to shift my gaze towards the romani culture in Romania and subsequently dealing with my own racism. Also it shifted my view towards my family. Who is my family? I have no idea, and until meeting this culture that is still very much family based, I didn’t care.
I did start this journey into flamenco for the purpose of my art project, but it became irrelevant to it as the project evolved in it’s own direction. However, the influence it had on me has changed my views* radically.
*it is the second time Spain does that to me. Should I stay away? 😅😂