BY SAÚL CASTILLEJO GARCÍA
Likewise, the documentation generated by the 'enemies' of these dances, the local press that recounts events of theft, prostitution and other scandals, photographs and loose documentation such as posters (which do not allow us to generate a complete but complementary narrative) serve as information to reconstruct the characteristics of what the flamenco dances were like at this historical moment.
We must bear in mind the difference in narrative that we are going to find in nineteenth-century travel literature with respect to that of the eighteenth century; in Romanticism we are going to have more visibility over the landscape, but over a pre-existing landscape.
After the War of Independence, the Romantic travellers romantic travellers their interest in Spain was to skyrocket. Imbued by this spirit, they will focus on looking for the difference, experiencing the sensations and emotions, investigating it and feeling it to the fullest. They are interested in the people because it is different from what they know.
However, we find a number of disadvantages; travellers tell what is different, what is strange to them, so we will not find a complete narrative of the flamenco situation through their testimonies. They often focus, for example, on the clothes, with which they can establish relations with respect to their culture. On the musical and dance level, the description of the singing, guitar playing and dancing is very open, general and not very precise, so we cannot determine exactly what they saw, but it serves as a starting point.
Speaking of the nuclei of the first singing cafés, we find particularities such as those of Granada, whose bad relationship with the roads and connections did not stop the abundant foreign presence that came to visit the Alhambra.
With regard to Seville, we note that it was a city where this type of dancing was persecuted, by law, by morality and by custom. Dancing in this context was only considered acceptable if it was done professionally and privately. However, this city would generate the first dance academies, the first business spaces that would charge for an entrance fee to perform dances, which would generate demand and even develop them to the point of generating independent and specific spaces.
From 1880 onwards, with the cafés cantantes, we will observe that many of the elements of the dance designed for foreigners, such as the last step of the olé and the vito, will disappear. In this decade, the flamenco show of the café cantante will acquire a special consolidation and differentiation, in which the dance will progressively detach itself from the aesthetics of the bolero school, progressively setting aside elements such as the castanets. We can observe innovations in the costumes that modified the dance, such as the bata de cola and the shawl, thanks to figures such as Pastora Imperio and the wide-brimmed hat.
During the period in question (1880-1920), we find a flamenco group made up of between ten and fifteen artists, mostly women and young people - especially in singing and dancing - who were regulars at each venue.
These cafés were places where, despite being the nucleus in which great dancers such as 'La Malena' or 'La Macarrona' developed, the dancers did not dedicate themselves solely to one profession. They alternated between show business and prostitution or customer service. In this sense, we understand that the majority of the audience were heterosexual working class men, so the dances were adapted to their tastes, enhancing a certain sensuality and femininity.
We find a great variety of schools and dances performed mainly by women, mostly solo, producing a sexual division of the dance. Moreover, at this time the roles in the cuadro were not fixed or professionalised separately, so that the same dancer could also sing. Men could appear as dancing figures, but their role was usually that of accompanying the woman or, if they danced solo, they discarded sensuality.
They are showy dances, partly conditioned by the architecture of the space, and which, depending on the tendency (feminine or masculine), can be more elegant and delicate, with precise, circular movements and decorative footwork, -associated with the feminine tendency-, or dances in which the footwork acquires greater importance, complemented with a certain savagery and bodily contortions, -associated with the masculine tendency-.
As examples collected by the traveller É. Bouchet in Souvenirs d'Espagne we see the Macarena or 'belly dances', related to Granada, which are characterised by contortions, twisting the bust and hips and the repeated use of the zapateado, the bolero or the seguidilla.
As Rocío Plaza reports in Los Cafés Cantantes de Sevilla y las imágenes fotográficas de Emilio Beauchy (2018), travellers such as Hans Parlow described a rather sensual atmosphere reflected in the dances, stylised with light dresses, a shawl wrapped around the bust and a flower attached to the temples. Finally, if we look at the styles of flamenco, we find the alegrías as the fundamental women's dance from which the rest of the dance styles will crystallise, expanding towards the tientos-tangos, the soleá and the garrotín (in women) and the farruca and the zapateado (in men), among others.