By Greg Schillinger

Flamenco is a style of Spanish folk music and dance. Though there is no written history that gives us much indication on the origin of the art form, historians believe that it began in the south of Spain in the region of Andalusia.

It was first mentioned in documents that dated back to 1774, but it most likely began earlier than that.

The basic concept of a flamenco show is that group of musicians snap and clap to keep a beat and to encourage the dancers, and music is played along to that rhythm. Vocalizations are also used throughout the show. The show that the class saw used two guitars and a violin, as well as other handheld percussion instruments.

We took our seats in the dining room and began to be served. Sangria, salad, bread, paella, cheese and a cream puff dessert were all on the menu. The authentic food was a great start. After we were served our first few courses, the show started.

The curtain rose, and sitting at the rear of the stage was a collection of men and women, some with instruments, all wearing black. Some of the men – dressed in suits and not traditional garb at all – began to snap and clap, and the guitars and violins began to play. Within a few measures, two women strutted out from behind the curtains, one on each side of the stage, and began dancing. Their dresses were elaborate and long and in bold colors. Their dancing was equally bold; quick, precise flails of their arms were matched with quick turns of their torsos and legs. They wore shoes similar to tap shoes, and throughout the dance, they added to the music by banging out intense rhythms on the wooden stage.

Throughout the evening, different performers entered and left the stage. There were a few groups of two women, there was a group of two men, and at times, only a single person was dancing on the stage. Around 15 performers came and went, including the musicians.

Everything that was going on was fabulous and grand, but it took a while to warm up to flamenco. The dances and singing were seemingly improvised most of the time. But that was the fun of flamenco – It’s all about the rhythm created on the stage in the moment and the flair of the dancers. It wasn’t an organized production, such as a symphony. Flamenco is all about creating an exciting, dramatic atmosphere.

And I discovered that the show we saw was the real deal. After we left the venue, I was talking with our tour guide. Mauricio Macarron Larumbe, about what we saw. I hinted that it was so wild and improvised that I couldn’t believe that it was authentic. He joked that if they [the performers] knew that I doubted the authenticity of their show, “They would kill [me].” Looking back to that evening, I have to say the food was incredible, and experiencing the show was a great way to see first-hand the flair and passion of the Spanish culture.

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