Flamenco 5 – Sevillanas: the present day

Last week we looked at the origin of Las Sevillanas. By the mid nineteenth century they had become so popular that they were danced all over the place, especially in the Corralas or collective patios in the humblest neighbourhoods of Seville and other cities in the South.
The version known as Sevillanas Corraleras arose from these impromptu sessions where percussion would be provided on just about anything people had to hand. Anything! An empty Anís bottle with a spoon rasping up and down the side, pot lids used as cymbals, an espadrille banged on the mouth of a clay water pitcher makes a great bass drum. Not to mention castanets and cañas (split bamboo sticks). Mrs Maki has fond memories of these as a child. Here is an example. Notice how much faster they are than anything we saw last week and how the dancers take it in turns to come out to the front and dance alone.

As the dance became more popular it also became part of the entertainment people found for themselves on the long, dusty pilgrimage to Ayamonte in Huelva – the Romería del Rocío. This still takes place every year at Whitsun. Las Sevillanas Rocieras are peculiar in that very often the only accompaniment is a drum and whistle. Here is a very short example (follow links at the end of the video if you want to investigate further):

As we hope to have explained so far, Las Sevillanas were a flexible and essentially popular dance and as a result they were not recorded (or thought worth recording) till the mid fifties of the last century. Being neither a palo nor, strictly speaking Flamenco, they have always been something of a poor relation of their purer, haughtier Flamenco cousins. However, their popularity led to them being taught in dance academies and taken a little more seriously and Las Sevillanas Aflamencadas evolved. The Bailaoras and Bailaores started to work their magic on the form. Here is an example of a much more artistic Sevillana Flamenca from Merche Esmeralda, one of the most famous Bailaoras of the seventies and eighties. The guitarist here is Manolo Sanlúcar. We’ll be seeing more of him in later posts.

We can’t embed this video here. But you can follow this link. Please do.

If you really want to see Las Sevillanas in all their glory then you must head for La Feria de Abril in Seville. Originally a Cattle Fair that started in 1846 it is now an annual explosion of vitality and springtime joy held towards the end of April. (The dates have something to do with Easter but it has to start in April even if it’s only the first day). It is now an international tourist attraction with visitors from all over the world. Mrs Maki remembers a Scottish visitor from the sixties and seventies who was a regular visitor. He would turn up every year in full regalia, kilt, sporran and all. Despite speaking hardly any Spanish he was a welcome guest and people looked forward to seeing him.

Here’s a quick look at the atmosphere you can expect. I’ve lost count of the times we’ve made this carriage ride over the last twenty or so years:

And to wrap up. We’ve got our hands on an invitation to Los del Río’s private caseta (marquee) to see how Las Sevillanas are danced, sung and enjoyed these days in La Feria. (You may recognise Los del Río as the perpetrators of the famous Macarena)

Las Sevillanas draw on a broad range of influences and we feel that this is the secret of their appeal. No matter where you come from there’s something in there that you can identify with.

Next week: La Zambra

One Response to Flamenco 5 – Sevillanas: the present day

  1. Pingback: The Flamenco Series « Casa Maki

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