|The Plaza de Toros de La Maestranza (The bullring in Sevilla) with the cathedral in the background). |
|Morante as he prepares to kill a bull.|
The second part of bull fights that I love is quite the opposite; when the torero stands completely still, facing the bull, and does absolutely nothing. Nothing but stare at the bull and wait. That in and of itself has to be one of the hardest and most riveting moments of a bullfight, and from those moments I have learned so much about flamenco. The emptiness of nothing happening is one of my biggest fears in a dance; yet those are the moments you remember. Israel Galván once said that the audience is the dancer's bull. And it's true in many ways. We are confronting the audience, making ourselves completely vulnerable. I've learned about rhythm and pacing from the bullfights. In many ways, the music itself is our bull--as dancers we are able to 'play' with the rhythm and the music, weave in and out, just as the bullfighters weave around the bull with their cape. And if we don't fully command the space, ourselves, and the musicians, the audience will not believe us--we will not be able to transmit anything. It's that attitude that is so essential to flamenco, and the ability to wait--to not rush through each movement and each section, but to truly experience it. This may seem a bit cheesy, but there is a reason the bullfighting worlds and flamenco worlds are closely linked. In a more concrete way, dances are structured similar to a bullfight, with different sections and each one serving a purpose.
There are many gestures that come directly from the bullfight and the vocabulary used to describe movements are the same. For example, a remate is a culminating step in flamenco that is used at the end of a section of footwork, as a response to a verse of the singing, or to close or open a section of a dance. In the bullfight, it is the end of a series of successful passes with the bull, when the bullfighter turns away with a sort of flourish with his arm to round off the series. Knowing the intention behind this gesture in this context gives a different meaning to a remate for me in flamenco. A remate is any sort of rounding off--it is the word used to mean hem in clothing, but knowing its connection to bullfighting enriches its use in flamenco for me.
There are also many postures that come from bullfighting, and the bullfight is in many ways a dance between the bullfighters and the bull. Yes, it is trickery--tricking the bull into going for the cape, but in so doing the bullfighter creates a sort of pas de deux with the bull. He leads the bull, he decides which way it must go, which way it will turn around him. Sometimes they spin around each other several times before the bullfighter bulls the cape away and finished the pass. That a large animal and a man can move in such unison is incredible.
I've been to two bullfights recently, and I have to say, each time I go I understand flamenco a little bit better. Regardless of your opinions on the politics of bullfighting, it is an important influence on flamenco and the art forms are closely related. I don't know as much as I would like to about bullfighting, it is a complex art form with much history and symbolism, along with its own dictionary of terminology. Little by little I am learning more.
The spanish wikipedia page has a good basic overview if you speak spanish: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrida_de_toros
The english version is not as detailed or orientated towards the art form, but here is the link: