A Dancer’s Disruption of Conservative Flamenco Culture

When I used to be six and my sister was 4, our dad and mom, on vacation in Andalusia, purchased us postcards of flamenco dancers. Mine had a yellow gown, and got here sporting an actual skirt made of lace-edged satin that you might raise as much as see the printed model beneath—a talisman of unique femininity, to the thoughts of a six-year previous boy. When the journalist and filmmaker Ana González was rising up close to Madrid, within the nineteen-nineties, flamenco appeared each ubiquitous and retrograde. For González, this exuberant type of dance and music, which emerged in southern Spain, represented a cloying model of nationalism. “I used to reject the conventional flamenco story, because I associated it with a very conservative tradition,” she stated.

It took Manuel Liñán, the topic of “Flamenco Queer,” to alter her thoughts. The movie, which González made together with her companion, Frederick Bernas, follows Liñán, a seasoned flamenco dancer and choreographer, as he prepares for an enormous present within the Andalusian metropolis of Granada. In the opening scene, Liñán and 5 fellow-dancers sit in a horseshoe, clapping and stamping as one other dancer storms and twirls within the heart. They’re dressed for the stage, with flouncing attire in beautiful hues, high-heeled footwear, and lacquered hair. All of them are males, and their efficiency is revolutionary. “In the world of flamenco, there is a conservative faction, like with society in general,” Liñán explains. “Just for being a man, you’re not allowed to dance in a particular way.” In one other scene, we see Liñán, sporting a protracted polka-dot skirt over Adidas sweatpants, instructing a category of 5 ladies and one boy learn how to type the sultry hand gestures which can be attribute of the style. “When I was learning to dance, they told me that I should only move two fingers,” he says, didactically. “That was really boring for me. I preferred the whole hand. I thought it was nicer. But you can choose.” The children mimic their instructor, holding their fingers excessive above their heads and turning them in swish, halting circles.

“Art should change with society,” González informed me. Bernas agreed. “If you don’t adapt, you become irrelevant,” he stated. But artwork can’t change itself—that requires artists. Liñán started his coaching whereas nonetheless in kindergarten, and he was performing professionally by the age of 13. A clip, preserved on V.H.S., reveals him showing on a kids’s tv present, wearing a person’s outfit of a white shirt and black waistcoat, however with the identical concentrated pout he wears many years later. The guidelines of how boys may dance, or what they may put on, had been constricting, and at dwelling, in personal, Liñán started to experiment with ladies’s clothes. (His father, a bullfighter, disapproved, however his mom didn’t thoughts.) As an grownup, Liñán’s experience within the flamenco type offers him the authority to make it his personal. On the evening of the present, at a theatre within the gardens of the traditional Alhambra palace, he dances solo on an enormous stage backed by cypress bushes. His gown is geranium crimson, his actions fluid and entrancing. “In flamenco, I found the most honest way to communicate,” he says, in voice-over. “I transform a private act into a public spectacle.” It’s how artists make change, one after the other.

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