Flamenco, that artistic expression of music, movement, song, and dance originating in Andalucía Spain and possibly dating back to the 8th century, is on display during the Chicago Flamenco Festival 2021 presented by the Instituto Cervantes de Chicago, a non-for-profit center for the Spanish language and cultural exchange.
“Flamenco is a dance of passion,” says Teresa Hernando Rojo, cultural activities coordinator at the Instituto Cervantes and director of the festival which runs until November 13 “It takes great skill and dedication.”
Best described as a solo dance with three components, canto (song), baile (dance) and one of three forms—intense, grand, and intermediate, flamenco is also an energetic and a highly expressive art form incorporating hand clapping, fancy footwork, elaborate hand, arm, and body movements all accompanied by music. It’s enthralling to observe—percussive footwork and clicking castanets, elaborate and richly colored costumes often patterned (at least for the women; the men seem to prefer black) with the music and movements expressing a wide range of emotions.
The attention to detail is amazing, even the way the bailaora or female dancer ties her long hand-embroidered shawl is representative of differing moods. Adding to the visual impact are ornate fans, perfectly coiffed hair, ruffled dresses cut high in front to enable movement, veils, and combs.
“Even the costumes are very traditional,” continues Hernando, noting that the costumes often worn during the performers at the festival are handmade by people who specialize and only make flamenco clothing.
It’s also a family tradition, flamenco is often passed down through the generations. Performers learn from parents who have learned from their parents, fathers to sons and mothers to daughters.
Performers during the five week events include Kati Golenko, one of the few women professional flamenco guitar players, and Miguel Reyes Jimenez, a master of the flamenco cajon who has written books on the subject. Golenko, who was born in Chicago and Jimenez, who is from Mexico City, met in Madrid and believe that flamenco is not only for people who were born into the tradition. They invite foreigners to join what they describe the clan of flamenco bastards, ‘The global tribe of #flamencobastards are all of us who were born outside of Spain, lacking flamenco purity in our veins, but for some strange reason, palpating with flamenco in our blood. We can´t speak to purity, but we can share what’s ours: technique, feeling, and strength.”
Other performers include Nino de los Reyes who was nine years old when he performed in “Campanas Flamencas,” directed by Paco Sánchez, founder of the legendary Cumbre Flamenca and Amparo Heredia, known as “La Repompilla,” who premiered her own show, “Herencia Flamenca,” at the Tío Luis de la Juliana festival in Madrid in 2017. This year she won La Lámpara Minera, the most prestigious and highest International flamenco singing award.
“The great thing about flamenco is you don’t have to understand the language to understand its power and beauty,” says Hernando.