One of the most iconic images of Spain is that of a Flamenco dancer in her bright red traditional, frilly dress. It's so popular that it has its very own emoji too, which you must have used countless times to express your love for dressing up or to convey that you look forward to having a great time out.
Flamenco is all passion; dancers pour their feelings into the movement. You don't need to know Spanish to understand what's happening because the performers act is touching. It is an expression of emotion that uses rapid movement of arms and rhythmic stamping of the dancer's feet.
The dance has four basic elements attached to it. These include cante (singing), toque (guitar), baile (dance), and palmas (handclapping). Flamenco is not really a social dance like Salsa or Tango; it's more of a performance art that involves hours of hands-on-hips and foot-pounding technical work.
There are about 12,000 Spanish expatriates living in the UAE, who feel the country is home away from home, thanks to the year round sunshine and of course the options to enjoy the dance. For the Spanish, Flamenco is more than just song, dance, and music; it is a way of life. Amalia Megias Lopez, CEO and Founder of Flamenco Art and Entertainment, used to work on cruise ships doing Flamenco shows. One day, she decided to come to Dubai thinking that she will work here for one month and see how it goes. "I have been here for four years now and Dubai is my home," says Amalia. "Back then, there were not a lot of professionals performing Flamenco. It was often confused with South American dance forms. So, I decided to dedicate my life to promoting the art." Amalia and her group perform at various Spanish restaurants around town and also participate in private events in the UAE as well as Oman, Bahrain, and Doha. "I currently have 15 artists performing with me. I started to teach here as soon as I arrived and started with three students. Even though it was a small group, I didn't want to stop because I believed that slowly more people would come. I now have four groups of students from beginners till advanced levels, with six students in each class. They are from different nationalities such as Emiratis, Italians, Lebanese, and Americans," she adds. She shares that she also gets a lot of interest from Indians thanks to the super hit song Senorita from the Bollywood film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. She also adds that Flamenco is very similar to the Indian dance form Kathak. "We do innovate, but we keep our roots intact," says Amalia. "It is an art that needs time, sacrifice, and hours of practicing." She is currently working on a Flamenco opera production that will take place on May 14 and 15 at DUCTAC.
Over the years, different variations of the dance have evolved. It has its roots in the gypsy culture of Andalusia in Southern Spain. The dancer always improvises on the go and will stand motionless for the first few moments absorbing the guitar, until the inspiration hits them.
Cristina Heras has been doing Flamenco since she was 15. Her job as an architect brought her to Dubai. "When I came here I didn't expect to find advanced classes for the dance form and I was pleasantly surprised at the options available. It is a very important part of my life and I am glad I am able to practice it 7,000 kilometres away from home," she says. While for a beginner student Alexandra Ramirez, joining the class seemed like a lot of fun, but she also thought of it as a powerful dance form, which made it even more meaningful to her. She says, "From day one, it has been an amazing experience and is both challenging and enjoyable. On a personal level, it makes you connect with your own rhythm and pace of your movements. Believe me, while you are doing Flamenco your mind cannot be anywhere else but there."
You can also catch a live performance in Dubai at Salero Tapas & Bodega (045509247), Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates. They have a Flamenco Night every Wednesday, where the dance performance is accompanied by a guitarist and traditional singer.
Deepa is a proud geek and an unabashed Harry Potter fan.