Flamenco 4 – Las Sevillanas: the beginning

Before we start, we should point out that Las Sevillanas are not a palo and are not, strictly speaking, Flamenco. But the history of how these Andalusian songs and dances came into being does reflect the history of popular folklore across the Iberian Peninsula and as Las Sevillanas are one of the art forms most readily associated with Andalusia and especially Seville and its Feria de Abril it seems appropriate to take a look.

Las Sevillanas have their origin in several different cultures. There was a popular lyrical and dance form in 10th and 11th Century Al Andalus shared by the Muslim and Jewish communities known as Jarchas. Meanwhile, from the northernmost Celtic corners of the peninsula, the Celtic dances had followed the Reconquista down into Castille and La Mancha and by this time had evolved in the form known as Las Seguidillas. Different variations of these are danced and sung all over modern day Spain. With the conquest of Córdoba and Seville in the mid thirteenth century the fusion of the two forms was inevitable!

The Jarchas were poems set to music. Normally they were love songs written from the female point of view and and were often conversations between the beloved and her closest circle of female confidants. Here is an example as re-imagined by the film maker Carlos Saura in the theatrical follow up to his film Flamenco.

And here is the other part of the equation. A group dancing Seguidillas Manchegas, we can see that they are more formally structured and designed to be danced in pairs. Notice the use of castanets and that the accompaniment is not only played on the guitar, but the bandurria (a type of mandolin) as well.


The resulting fusion of styles was to undergo further changes. The influence of Ballet, Opera and Theatre in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville in the eighteenth century, led to other outside influences affecting the more popular folkloric styles. The dance, which by this time was known as Las Sevillanas, was no exception. With Felipe de Anjou on the throne in 1819, French dance masters were brought in to teach dances such as the minuet, academies were set up in the major cities and the Sevillanas Boleras were born. Here is an example from the Spanish Champions from 1998. Notice how slow this dance is and the wonderful costumes that are straight from the times of Goya and are known as goyescos.

And finally this week, it’s not all about guitars and taconeo, you know. Here is a slow paced example of Sevillanas Clásicas played on the piano and sung by Pareja Obregón. The dancers are far less energetic, but no less graceful than anything we’ve seen so far. The way one of them moves the Mantón de Manila (a shawl that came into Spanish culture during the time The Philippines were a colony) is both elegant and masterful.

Next week: Sevillanas in the present day (with a visit to the Feria de Abril).

One Response to Flamenco 4 – Las Sevillanas: the beginning

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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