dance


dance
   Despite the richness of the Spanish dance tradition, both in its academic and folk manifestations, it was not until the 1990s that the state made a serious effort to structure dance education so as to provide a qualification of the same status as other university degrees. This was particularly paradoxical in a country which has produced so many brilliant dancers, and which, particularly since the transition to democracy, has discovered contemporary dance, and has seen a revolution in the understanding of dance, blending traditional forms such as flamenco with other styles.
   By contrast with the academic rigidity of formal dance (danza), folk-dance (baile popular) is a much freer form, enabling people to externalize their feelings, especially during spring and summer fiestas such as those of St John, St Peter, St James and a host of other local patron saints, which offer a welcome break from daily toil. Autumn and winter festivals such as the Day of the Dead or All Souls" Day, Christmas and Carnival also have their characteristic dances. The medieval Danse Macabre survives in many parts of Spain, with dancers performing in cemeteries on All Souls" Day, though this custom has disappeared in Castile. All the autonomous communities share the traditional dance-forms of the jota, the fandango and the seguidilla, though the latter two are not found in León. Though the tradition of classical dance goes back to the nineteenth century, it has never given rise to dance companies with the same international impact as flamenco or folk-dance groups. After the restoration of democracy, an attempt was made to fill this gap by the creation of the Spanish National Classical Ballet Company (Ballet Nacional de España Clásico). However, despite the efforts of successive Directors such as Víctor Ullate, María de Ávila and Maya Plisetskaya, it never acquired a distinctive character, owing in part to the absence of clear political direction about the role of dance in the new Spain. Several voices advocated emphasizing contemporary dance as the appropriate means of expression for a society which was undergoing rapid modernization after forty years of stagnation. In the various regions, small companies sprang up, with the support of town councils and other official bodies, such as the Zaragoza Classical Ballet Company, which has been struggling to survive since 1982, or the shortlived Basque Ballet Company, founded in 1989. In addition, there were smaller companies which catered for the demand of artistically conservative parents, who sent their daughters to private ballet schools for social rather than professional reasons. The creation of Víctor Ullate's company in 1988 brought a breath of fresh air, with his idiosyncratic creations blending neoclassical and folk dance. María de Avila, later Director of the National Ballet Companies, founded Young Ballet as an outlet for her pupils, but despite the presence of future international stars such as Trinidad Sevillano, Antonio Castilla and Amaya Iglesias, lack of official support, and the short-sightedness of government cultural policy eventually caused it to collapse.
   By contrast, contemporary dance has undergone spectacular development, led by heroic figures determined to modernize the taste of a public deprived of this form of art during the Franco regime. The movement has been spearheaded by Catalonia and Valencia, which have produced the best companies and the best creators of new forms. The foundation of the independent Ballet Con-temporani de Barcelona in 1977 set new standards of professionalism. The Factory (La Fàbrica) has revolutionized the teaching of the new style, and has been the inspiration for numerous subsequent developments, among others Ananda Dansa, Danat Dansa, L'anònima Imperial, Mudanzas, Malpelo and 10 & 10, the latter the only significant contribution from the Spanish-speaking interior. Of particular note is the work of choreographers such as Cesc Gelabert, who won the National Dance Prize in 1996. Together with Lydia Azzopardi, he has been active since 1980 in introducing new trends and creating brilliantly original dance routines for their companies. Ramón Oller and his Metros company are fulfilling their early promise, and, together with other small groups, some of them amateur, are building up an enthusiastic and knowledgeable following. The return of Nacho Duato, and his controversial transformation of the National Classical Ballet Company into the National Dance Company (Compañía Nacional de Danza), which in a mere six years he turned into a world-class contemporary dance company, has made art dance a mass phenomenon. The regulation of dance education via conservatories enabled students to obtain recognized qualifications as classical (ballet) or traditional (Spanish) dancers. But the system also had an important role in the renewal of Spanish dance by combining the spontaneity and natural talent of its earlier products with a more sophisticated technique, which helped to launch the careers of Antonio Canales and Lola Greco, who continued the innovative work of Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos. The explosive irruption onto the scene of Joaquín Cortés, who fuses various styles with flamenco and traditional dance, has made him the most charismatic figure in the public's eyes since Duato. Besides, since 1992, the government has been phasing in various educational reforms which finally recognize art education as a legitimate university course (see also LOGSE). This has put pressure on the conservatories and private dance schools. The conservatories offer three programmes, classical ballet, contemporary dance and Spanish dance, which includes flamenco, escuela bolera, classical Spanish dance, and regional dance. In theory, the latter embraces all manifestations of folk-dance, but this genre is facing severe difficulties owing to the lack of government support, and survives thanks to the enthusiasm of small research groups and regional organizations such as town and provincial councils, which sometimes subsidize Folklore Schools.
   The study of dance history is a relatively recent development, and has usually been carried on from within a musicological perspective. This is gradually giving way to research conducted by scholars with a specifically dance background, such as Ana Yepes, María José Ruiz and Carlos Blanco, who are striving to rediscover the historical roots of what has become in contemporary Spain a rich and vibrant phenomenon.
   See also: Basque culture; Canarian culture; Catalan culture; Galician culture; national dance companies; performing arts
   Further reading
   - Abad Hernán, P.P. (1989) Cancionero popular de Castilla y León: Romances, canciones y danzas de tradition oral, Salamanca: Centro de Cultura Tradicional (a comprehensive compilation of traditional music, including dance music).
   - Aznar, J. (ed.) (1994) Dansa : noves tendències de la coreografia catalana, Barcelona: Diputació de Barcelona (illustrated with numerous photographs).
   - Caballero Bonald, J.M. (1959) Andalusian Dances, trans. C.D.Ley, Barcelona: Noguer (somewhat dated, but one of the few studies available in English).
   - Durand-Viel, A.M. (1983) La sevillana : datos sobre el folklore de la Baja Andalucía, Sevilla: Servicio de Publicaciones del Ayuntamiento de Sevilla (a study of this characteristic dance-form).
   - El Sac de Danses (research group) (1987) El Risto: Danses catalanes que encara es ballen, Barcelona: Alta Fulla (a description of one of the major regional dance traditions).
   - Miguel Lara, M.J. de (ed.) (1994) La danza en la escuela, Sevilla: Diputación Provincial (considers the implications of the introduction of dance into the school curriculum).
   - Río Orozco, C. del (1993) Apuntes sobre la danza española, Cordoba: Tip. Artística (pp. 155–7 contain a useful bibliography).
   - Wingrave, H. (1972) Spanish Dancing, A Handbook on Steps, Style, Castanets and Dancing, Speldhurst: Planned Action (a practical manual).
   CARLOS BLANCO LOU

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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