You won’t be surprised to learn that my upcoming release, Dance of Love, centres on the theme of dancing. My heroine, Farah, is a Spanish woman respected as a gifted dancer.
The closest thing to the type of dance I envisioned her performing is the SEVILLANA, though on the cover she is performing the Sword Dance, another of her specialties. The video clip at the end of the post will give you a good idea of sevillanas.
Sevillanas are a type of Spanish folk music. Historically, they are a derivative of Castilian folk music (seguidilla), spiced with Arabic rhythms. They have a relatively limited musical pattern, but rich lyrics, based on country side life, towns, neighborhoods, pilgrimage, and love themes.
Sevillanas can be heard in southern Spain, mainly, in fairs and festivals, including the famous Seville Fair, La Feria de Sevilla. There is an associated dance for the music: “Baile por sevillanas”, consisting of four different parts. One can find schools teaching “baile por sevillanas” in nearly every town in Spain.
Generally speaking, a sevillana is very light and happy music.
The Sevillana did not originate in Seville. It is an old folk dance, danced by couples of all ages and sexes during celebrations (fiestas or ferias), often by whole families and pueblos. Sevillanas choreography is very stable, and knowing it is very useful, since it is a fiesta dance. It is a very vivid dance, but it is NOT flamenco. Paradoxically, during spectacles and shows it is usually Sevillana dancing that some people take for flamenco, as it is full of turns.
The dance can be very erotic and sensual, although the pair will never touch each other until the final moments when the man will put his arm around the waist of the woman to finish the dance. The sevillana was originally a courting dance where the man sets out to woo the woman in a display similar to two mating flamingos. In the old Spanish tradition, young couples were limited in their courting practises, the man would spend the night talking to his novia, through the iron grills of her door or window, and if they did get the chance to go for a walk, they would most definitely be chaperoned by the girl’s mother, sister, or whole family.
The feria week would be the only time that the man could show his affection to the girl, asking her to accompany him in the dancing of sevillanas, and this is most probably why there is little physical contact, as the whole night would be watched over by her family.
Today the sevillana is danced at any form of get-together, whether it is the feria, a wedding, or at a family party, where all and everyone present will join in. For many, dancing the sevillana is just routine, something they have grown up with and learnt simply by being constantly surrounded by it, although there are many schools where you can go to learn it.
It is normally far better and enjoyable when performed by everyday Andalucians rather than professional or trained dancers, because even though the movements are set to a pattern, it is a dance of the people, and when they are simply enjoying themselves, it will be far more entertaining.
The casetas or small bars at the feria will be bursting with people who for one week of the year will forget about everything other than enjoying themselves, and like all fiestas in Andalucía, the colour, the theatrical scenes, and the traditional dress, all combine to make a most wonderful experience.
Dance of Love will be available in early November.