Monday, 27 April 2015

The Paso Doble, the dance modelled after the bullfight

Culturally, Spain is not a country but a continent.

You might reach middle age before you can join just all the dance and music styles. And to not even start about all the languages or highlights in literature and paintings.

In a previous post we talked about Flamenco. Now time for the Paso Doble! 

What is 'the Paso'? Experience a great example:

Isn't Paso Doble part of Flamenco?

No, they are 2 very distinct expressions that only share their 'Spanishness'.

Flamenco is not a dance, but an art form that encompasses music, dance and poetry in one very visual package. Creating something greater than the mere sum of all ingredients, it has been called the most perfect art form.

The Paso Doble is (only) a dance, modelled after the drama, feel, sound and movement of the Spanish and Portuguese bullfight. As beautiful as it can be, it can be summarized in one page (for Flamenco you would need a blog in itself).

From the 16th century to the endeared nickname of 'the step' 

'Paso' being the Spanish word for step - and thus, yes, Paso Doble just meaning double step. But why make it difficult if Ballroom dancers just call it 'the paso'?

Originally the expression 'paso doble' was only used for a binary rhythm and movement, probably based on typical Spanish dances of the 16th century.

Over time, this rhythm slipped into comedies and then, in the 18th century, got adopted as a regulatory step for the Spanish infantry.

Next thing you know the music is introduced in the bullfights of the 19th century: it is highly suitable for the bullfighters' entrance to the ring (paseo).

As a dance for couples though, it was created in France, at a time that Spain stood for everything that was exotic and romantic (remember the opera Carmen, or Don Juan) - and then adopted again in Spain and Portugal.

Famous bullfighters have been honoured with Paso Doble tunes named after them.

Where can you see the Paso Doble?

Unfortunately, Venezuela is the only country where it's danced socially.
In Spain only by couples who trained beforehand and stick to a previously learned routine.

In any other situation it's only danced competitively, f
or its inherently choreographed tradition.

In competitive Ballroom dancing, it's combined with 4 other dances (Samba, Cha Cha, Rumba and Jive) under the banner of International Latin.

Where can you learn the Paso Doble?

All over YouTube! Together with half the population of China.

Have fun!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

May in Andalucia: To Romeria or not to Romeria?

that is not the question. The Romeria is the most unforgettable of all Andalusian experiences. 

If you don't have a Romeria on your resumé yet, start asking around in your village or region.

You will not be the only one. Around this time of the year the questions are buzzing everywhere in inland Andalusia: which Romeria will I join? Who can I convince to go with me? 

And from there: on foot or organise a car for a whole group? Which drinks will I carry, will we come home in the evening or stay over for the night?  

And then, just go with the flow. 

What is a Romeria? 

In the heart, a Romeria is a religious pilgrimage.
The word comes from 'Romero', which stands for someone who travels towards Rome. 

In all the villages, towns and cities of Andalusia there is one Romeria: a Catholic celebration that consists of a trip (by car, on horseback or on foot) of anywhere between a few hours and a full day - that ends at a sanctuary or hermitage. 

Here, a party can take  place, and in many a village people bring tents with them for the party to go on for a second day. 

The precise trip depends on the local patron saint. For example, San Isidro is the patron saint of agriculture, so in villages that rely heavily on agriculture the trip will go towards the sanctuary of San Isidro.

In another village it can be dedicated to the Virgin de la Oliva.

Why join a Romeria?  

Every expat who has ever joined the trip of a Romeria, will tell you it's one of the nicest things they have ever done in Andalucia.

Many count the travel as the important, fun and romantic part of the pilgrimage.

Though Catholic in its origins, it's very festive, a feel good experience unlike any other. Yes, there's the Andalusian love for socialising, for drinking and dancing and celebrating life, but also a welcoming group feel: a time for quarrels and recriminations to be forgotten. 

That does not mean it should not be treated with respect! A fight or any other sign of disrespect for the Patron Saint, the community itself or the festive ambiance is not accepted. 

During one or two days the world is a very tolerant, pleasant, peaceful place.

Where can you find a Romeria?  

Everywhere. Ask around in your community when the most nearby Romeria takes place. The more local you go, the more familiar faces you will see and the more social contact you will have. 

The most famous of all is the ROMERIA OF EL ROCIO 

Correctly put: the Romeria of Nuestra Señora del Rocio. 

This massive happening attracting around one million pilgrims, takes place at the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Rocio in the village of the Rocio in Almonte, Huelva.  The pilgrims come from throughout Andalusia (and nowadays also from all over Spain and beyond) and typically travel one to seven days beforehand, generally sleeping outdoors. 


We so wish we could join you all - unfortunately one can only be at one Romeria at a time. 

Enjoy yours... and the whole of that magnificent month of May.