Flamenco is a traditional Spanish art form and the Flamenco performance is famous for the world. Although the most easily recognized form of flamenco would be the sensual movements and foot-stomping in its dance, the performance actually consists of three important art forms – flamenco guitar playing (guitarra), songs (cante), and dance (baile). The performance also includes hand clapping (palmas) and finger snapping (pitos). Together these elements combined and created fireworks of a variety of emotions which are passionate, lament, and deep.
Flamenco was introduced to the south of Spain by the Gypsies in the 18th century, incorporating Spanish folklore with sounds from the Levant, North Africa, and even India – it is now considered to be native to the Spanish regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, and Murcia.
Seville is the largest city in the Andalusia region and it is the hotbed of Flamenco – once upon a time, the dance was a window for the working class to vent and lash out their stress and struggles in their daily lives. So when I was in Barcelona, I wasted no time and booked to watch a flamenco show. We went to Tablao de Carmen, a performance place created as a tribute to the great flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya.
Tablao – in Spanish it means a place where flamenco shows are performed, developed during the 1960s, Tablao replaced Cabaret (Cafes cantantes) and became the venues of Flamenco shows; and the place typically has at least four flamenco dancers for the show.
Tablao be Carmen is located in Poble Espanyol de Montjuïc, and according to its own website, the site was actually where the spot that Carmen Amaya herself danced before King Alfonso XIII of Spain in the 19th century! Therefore, the site has great historical and sentimental value to the owners as well as the visitors. Poble Espanyol was a heritage site and now a tourist complex where we found souvenir shops, fountains, restaurants, designer stores, and even glass-making studios.
Barcelona is actually in Catalonia but now the flamenco shows are everywhere in Spain. Some of those performances are really professional and exceptional. Usually, dancers wear vibrant and traditional ruffle dresses with a big bun on their head; and with no routine in their choreography, flamenco professional dancers stomp out rapidly to the beautiful melodies created by the singer and guitar player. Sometimes they use their toes, sometimes the ankle or the entire foot.
The Tablao was actually an intimate place. The site has two levels, and we sat on the ground level and got really close to the stage. The show started early at 7pm with a pitcher of Sangria on our table and a big plate of Spanish ham and garlic bread:). 3 female dancers and 1 male dancer performed one by one and then they danced together. Each performer wore different colors of dress or suit, and the lighting changes accordingly to their song. I totally agree that singing and guitar playing are also an important part of the performance – it set the mood and gave the dance performance depth and layers. While the dance was the most eye-catchy part of the show, I appreciated a lot the amazing guitar playing and singing performance as well.
We were still in the mood for some tapas and sangria after the show, and we went to La Rambla, the neighbor the most densely populated area in Barcelona – the old town Barro Gòtic. In Barro Gòtic, many of the architecture could be traced back to the 15th century (like La cathedral). Strolling in the spiderweb-like Barro Gòtic allies could be rewarding as they are filled with boutique stores.
La Rambla is the busiest business avenue in the city and lots of artists came to perform. El Raval was once the red light district of the city with lots of coffee shops and nightclubs until in the 60s the art museum was established and it transformed the area. Hip hotels and designer stores were set up. The restaurants and cafes in La Rambla open until late at night. However, the prices of tapas and drinks in the main streets could be quite crazy….