WHEN DANCES COLLIDE

SPAIN: IDA Y VUELTA

Flamenco 41 by Maryam Mughal

OVERVIEW

Dance is one of the purest forms of art and expression, not only does it tell a story by the way the performers interact with each other, but it also displays the mixture of cultures that contribute to the music and movements that make each dance unique. Most people when referring to Spanish dance tend to name Flamenco as the dance of Spain however, Spain’s dance culture is influenced by different aspects depending on the regions. These different dances have traveled through Spain, Europe and to the Americas giving birth to different dance styles or modified versions of the Spanish dances.

Dance Tidbits by Freddie Brock

TRADITIONAL DANCES

The traditional dances were folk dance that were different and unique to different regions of Spain. These dances led to the more famous and modern dances that now define Spaniard music and dance.

  1. Sardana:
    • This is was a dance that was very popular the Catalan region of Spain and it is considered to be a part of the identity of Catalonia. It is a dance that is played by a ‘cobla’, the live band that plays the music. Men and woman dance it equally as they move in a circle slowly taking small steps back and forth to the rhythm of flute and drum like instruments. It is still very important to Spanish culture and the are about 200 bands that play this style of music in Catalonia.
  2. Muiñeira:
    • This dance is regional to the areas near the stretch of Galicia and this dance demonstrates the derivation from Celtic culture that is more common in the northern part of Spain near the Iberian Peninsula. The use of Bagpipes (gaita) and traditional outfits show the resemblance to Irish culture. It is danced at a moderate fast pace that is common to the dances of Spain in it could be done in circles and rows of dancers.
  3. Sevillanas:
    • The dance of the south originating in the region of Sevilla. It was derived from Seguidillas a type of fast paced folk dance for couples. The lyrics are the most important part of this music and they sing about common life themes. The dance was later influenced by Flamenco and vice versa making them very similar and easy mistaken by those that do not know.
  4. Bolero:
    • The original bolero originated in Spain as a ballroom dance. It was the influence of the Flamenco style dance that follows the name of boleras because of the music style and use of ‘castanuelas’, but it was actually made by combining the folk dance of sevillana with a contradanza. Although there is a dance originated from Cuba with the same name, it does not relate to the Spanish bolero until recent times where the Spanish have incorporated the more modern Cuban Bolero into Spanish Bolero for a different twist on the Dance.
  5. Fandango:
    • It is a very common and popular couples dance that originated in Andalucía. The dance is intended to show a story between a couple, and it is revealed in the movement of taunting that each dancer shows the other. Could be seen as a fight or represent a war between two people. It is very similar to Bolero, and Flamenco because the music, instruments used (castanuelas).
  6. Jota:
    • Jota represented by the sound of the letter ‘J’ is a dance from the northern parts of Spain, Aragon. However, this dance is one of the only ones that is spread throughout Spain being represented differently in each region expressing the different aspects of cultures that each Spanish region have. It is composed of a fast-passed dance and even includes jumps.
  7. Flamenco:
    • Flamenco is the dance that is known to represent Spain. Nonetheless, it was introduced and developed in the south of Spain (Andalucía), and could even be considered insulting to ask someone from the North if they dance Flamenco. It is composed of different dances and rhythms from Arabic and Jewish decent and classical Spanish music. Today it is one of the most popular Spanish dances because of its music, use of guitars and, remixes they have done to the music to make it seem more modern.
  8. Paso Doble:
    • Paso Doble is an interesting form of expressing Spanish culture because it is meant to model the act of bullfighting, a common entertainment and cultural identity of Spain. It is a fast-passed couples dance where the man represents ‘el matador’ and the woman is the swift flowing cape. It was originated as a French military march that is still referred to during festivals. Paso doble is one of the various dances that was later incorporated in Latin American dances.
  9. Zarzuela:
    • This atypical dance is more of a theoretical musical style where the music changes between spoken and sung scenes. It was originated in Madrid in the Zarzuela Theatre. This was another of the dance entertainments that incorporated its self in the New World and the different countries adapted it to their own mixtures of cultures.

Guaguanco Series Art Print by
Arturo Cisneros

Relation to the new world

Most dance-based cultures in Latin America where not fully and solely influenced by Spanish dances because most Hispanic dances are mostly alterations of African dances. However, that minor alteration that changes the African dance is the input of Spanish dance that was brought from Europe.


  1. Religion in colonization dance: Before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, the indigenous groups had their own ritualistic dances and ceremonies, after the natives, the slaves brought from Africa brought their own experiences and interpretation of religious dancing. During the conversion period Catholics priests decided to allow the slaves and natives to dance and have ceremonies if they modified them to refer to the Catholicism. Slaves found a way around conversion by lying and giving African names to Catholic Saints they would praise their African gods but to the Spaniards view they were praising Spanish saints. This not only birthed a new religion (Santeria) practiced mostly in the Caribbean Islands but also to various new dance forms that had mixtures of Religious Spanish dances and African dances.
  2. Guaganco:
    • It is a topical dance of the Caribbean that originated from African culture. It derived from the Cuban Rumba a typical dance that originated in the northern parts of Cuba mostly in the capital La Havana. It is meant to represent a man trying to seduce a woman and the woman tantalizing him by leading how she reacts to his advances.

  1. Same name diferente steps:
  • As the formal dances above mentioned moved to the Americas, they changed not only because of the difference in liberty of the American people but also because of their physical consistency. In dances like the Seguidilla and Fandango, in the Americas they were changed to be about more feet movement called el Zapateo because the regid torso position helped to have a faster foot movement. This dance became very popular and still is in places like Mexico, and Colombia. The dance of Jota stayed pretty similar however, without the castanuellas , the hops and fast paced danced turned into dances like ‘Tiranas of Argentina and ‘Jaranas’ in Mexico.
  1. Zamacueca:
    • This dance was very important because it became the symbol of independence from the Spanish colonies. It was known as the mestizo dance. It originated from the general dance of
      sonecitos del pais which was the dance that most of Latin America transformed from the popular Spanish dances of la Jota and Seguidilla. In Argentina it became known as la Zamba and in Mexico La Chilena, with time the different countries changed the mane and some movements.
  2. Son:
    • Los sonecitos del pais developed with time into different more sensual dances known as Sones and Jarabes. From this musical mix derived El Son. It was very popular in the Caribbean although there is a Mexican Son. the Caribbean one originated in Cuba. this dancee gave a stop to the other dances that were fast leg movement a led to a more Afro- hip movement.
  3. Danzon:
    • This dance was the mixture of independence and elegance. it sported the movements and etiquette of the Waltz and the Polka but with a more sensual modern twist that the couples got to dance closer and touch each other more, so close they need to dance on a single tile.
  4. Jarabe Tapatio:
    • This famous Mexican dance was a Jarabe that derived from the Spanish dances and it encompass most of Mexican tradition. It originated in Jalisco and it is the music that accompanies the famous Mariachi bands.
  5. Punta:
    • Punta is a reference to the mixture of “Mayan dances and the religious dramas of Moors and Christians”. It is the typical dance of the countries on the Atlantic coast (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua ect.) It is a celebration to the dead and it is danced by moving the hips and lower parts of the body.

Before doing this research, I believed that most Hispanic dances were a mix African, Native, and Spanish dances, this research showed me what dances truly contributed to what specific dances. It showed me that no dance is truly pure, and it actually is an art form that represents a mixture of cultures and people.

CITATION

“Spanish Dance and Music: Overview.” Spanish Art, Spanish Art, 2011, www.spanish-art.org/spanish-dance.html.

Jessop, Tara. “10 Traditional Spanish Dances You Should Know About.” Culture Trip, Tara Jasop, 22 May 2017, theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/10-traditional-spanish-dances-you-should-know-about/.

Wall, Amy Lynn, “Dance as a cultural element in Spain and Spanish America” (1992). Presidential Scholars Theses (1990 – 2006). 151. https://scholarworks.uni.edu/pst/151

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