Taiwan Fun Magazine,May 2003   

Flamenco spices up Taiwan¡¦s

entertainment menu

By Vito Lee
Translated by Cheryl Robbins

       Flamenco performances start out with the strumming of a guitar. The dancer (or dancers) slowly appear with arms raised and castanets in hand. The dance picks up speed and later includes dizzying twists and turns. The dancer's shoes strike the wooden floor in perfect coordination with the guitarist¡¦s strumming, from slow and sad to feverishly passionate.

       Due to the increasing popularity of flamenco, performances of this important part of Spanish culture are taking place in pubs near Taipei¡¦s ShiDa Road.

       Flamenco is a unique art form that combines dance, singing and guitar music. Most CD stores classify flamenco music as ¡§world music,¡¨ but flamenco artists will tell you that flamenco is not folk music. Derived from ancient Spanish music, as well as the Byzantine, Jewish, Iberian Peninsula, and other Mediterranean cultures, flamenco has developed over several centuries.

       The limb movements of the flamenco dancer not only emphasize physical strength, but along with facial expressions, help to tell the story behind the music. The exquisite hand movements are similar to those of Indian dance. In addition to being accompanied by a vocalist and a guitar player, the dancer may use castanets, clapping or foot stomping in time with the music.

      The most famous flamenco singer of modern times is Camaron de la Isla. He began singing in public as a child. At the age of 16, he became a professional singer, and has since achieved great fame throughout the world.

       In any serious discussion of flamenco guitarists, it is necessary to mention Paco De Lucia. He is a truly gifted guitar player who learned the traditions of flamenco very early in life. He has earned a great following among flamenco guitar fans all over the world. His later works are more refined and include rumba and other musical styles.

       Flamenco music has a number of different styles, the most common having 12 beats per cycle. During the chorus, the guitar player may improvise. Flamenco styles also have very descriptive names, such as soleares, which in Spanish means solitude and alegrias, which in Spanish means happiness. Both of these styles include 12 beats per cycle. Flamenco novices usually start out by learning these two styles. Another flamenco style is Buleria. This type of music is played at gypsy festivals and celebrations, and is lively and fast.

      Flamenco has been designated as an important part of world heritage by the United Nations. For those with a deeper interest in flamenco music, the CD ¡§Le Chant du Monde¡¨ is a must have. This collection of flamenco tracks, compiled by a French music recording institute, can be purchased at fnac.

       With the increasing popularity of this art form, flamenco classrooms have opened around the island. Cuadro Flamenco Fuego Fantastico holds classes in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung. More information can be obtained online at http://www.flamenco.com.tw/about/about.htm.

       Those living in Kaohsiung or Hsinchu can study with Hsu Jin-hsien, who lived in Spain for more than 20 years. She can be reached at 0952-528-935