( Originally Published 1924 )
Since earliest Occidental history, the dances of Spain have been famous. To-day their richness, variety and fundamental nobility give them a position in advance of any other group of national dances of the Occidental type. Whether certain of the Oriental expressions are superior to the Spanish is wholly a matter of point of view on dancing. But dancers and dance-lovers, of all beliefs and prejudices, unite in con-ceding to Spain the highest development of "characteristic" or national dancing. More even : though the French and Italian ballets in general hold their schools to be the very fountainhead of the choreographic art, not a few disciples of the academies of Milan or Paris concede to Spanish dancing superiority over all, in that aspect of beauty that is concerned with majesty of line and posture.
It is as though Terpsichore herself had chosen the dwellers of Iberia to guard her gifts to mankind. Gadir, the city now called Cadiz, was a little Paris in the day of the Carthaginian, with dancing as its most highly developed art and notable among its diversions. When the Romans took the city they were delighted with the dancers they found there; for centuries after, Spanish dancers remained a fashionable adjunct of great entertainment in the capital, and Cadiz the inexhaustible source of their supply.
When Rome, too infirm to resist, left Spain to be overrun by the Visigoth, she left the arts of the peninsula to the mercy of a destroying barbarian. Architecture and statuary he demolished, books he burned. Dancing eluded his clumsy hand; in places of retirement children were taught the steps and gestures that had crossed the sea from Egypt in the days of the Phoenicians.
In the eighth century came the Moor: slayer, organiser, builder; fanatic, dreamer, poet; lover and creator of beauty in all its manifestations. His verses were epigrams of agreeable and unexpected sounds, formed into phrases of eloquent metaphor. His architecture and its ornament, too, were epigrams; combinations of graceful and simple lines and forms into harmonious symbols more eloquent than description. To him the dance was verse and decoration united, with music added; entertainment and stimulus to contemplation. Under his guardianship and tuition the Spanish dance strengthened its hold on the people, and increased in scope. A certain class of it retains to-day a distinctly Moorish flavour.
The "Century of Gold" that followed the expulsion of the Moors and the discovery of America found the dance surrounded by conditions than which none could have been more favourable. Gold looted from the new continent was lavished on masques and fiestas that emulated those of neighbouring monarchies; courtiers were so preoccupied with the diversion that a memoir of the period contains a complaint that "sleep in any part of the palace has become impossible, since persons of all degrees have taken to continuous strumming of the music of the zarabanda." The less exalted had in the dance an expression for every emotion, an exercise whose magic ennobled, and a magic whose exercise raised them above the reach of sordid cares. In the Church, while bishops in other parts of Europe were questioning or protesting the dance as an act of worship, their brothers in "la tierra de Maria Santisitna" were insisting upon it as a most appropriate part of the highest ritual.
Colonies and dependencies fell away; the stream of gold flows in other channels. Uncomplaining the Spaniard retires into the house that once was animated with great companies of guests and hordes of servants. Reduced? Not at all! A few intimates drop in after dinner, bringing friendship and wit. There is always a glass of wine. His daughters will step some of the old dances in the patio; their younger brother has "hands of gold to touch the guitar." An entertainment at once agreeable and becoming—the latter, if for no other reason, because it is Spanish!
To an extent there are grounds for the anxiety, some-times expressed, that modernism is melting away this tradition-worship. In Madrid there is an English queen; tennis and tea become a cult to be followed with what semblance of gusto one can assume. San Sebastian is the summer resort of royalty, and of pleasure-seekers from all parts of Europe; its modernism is that of Paris or Vienna. Other cities, to the number of perhaps half a dozen, show consciousness of twentieth-century conditions. Among which conditions is, of course, an indiscriminating fondness for novelties for their own sake. And there is always at hand a numerous class of dancers to provide novelties in exchange for a moment's applause.
In another country the national art would deteriorate under these hostile influences. But in Spain, not readily. Her dances are an organism, rooted in the soil, with forms as definite as the growth of a flower. Mention dancing to an Aragones, and it means to him the iota of his province. Let other steps be added to it, he will resent them; in his eyes they occupy about the same place as a third arm would on a drawing of the human figure—a monstrosity, and uninteresting. No less than Aragon have other regions their local dances and their choreographic creed, with stupendous pride in both. The steps are handed down like the tunes of old music, with the ideals for their execution. And, high in importance as conservers of their classic national forms, there exists a fine spirit of artistry among a number of the prominent masters. Jose Otero of Seville and Antonio Cansino, a Sevillano who for some years has taught in Madrid, are prominent among a number to whom the preservation of Spain's choreographic purity is almost a holy cause.
The dancing of Spain divides into two schools : the purely Iberian, exempt from Gipsy influence, which is h known as the Classic; and the work of Gipsy origin and character, which is generically known as the Flamenco. The two overlap to the extent of a few dances that par-take of the elements of both, and lend themselves to execution in the manner of either. On either side of this common ground the two schools are completely distinct in style, and almost equally so in gesture and posture, having in common only a limited number of steps. In general effect their individualities are absolute.
The work of the Gipsy is, above all, sinuous. His body and arms are serpentine. His hips, shoulders and chest show a mutual independence of action that would worry an anatomist, but which allows the dancer limit-less freedom for indulgence in the grotesque. He de-lights in the most violent contrasts. A series of steps of cat-like softness will be followed by a clatter of heels that resembles Gatling-fire, the two extremes brought into direct juxtaposition. His biggest jump will be pre-ceded by movement so subtle that it is less seen than sensed.
In all circumstances the Gipsy is an irrepressible pantomimist. Of the word and the gesture of his ordinary communication, it is highly probable that the gesture is of the greater importance. He likes to talk, and his words come at a speed that makes them indistinguishable to any but a practised ear, the confusion heightened by the free intermixture of Gipsy argot. But the continuous accompaniment of facial expression, movement of body and play of hands is sufficient by itself.
The dance gives full employment to the Gipsy's mimetic powers, and in fact serves primarily as an emotional expression. His dances are not composed, or "routined." He has his alphabet of steps and choreographic movements, and with these he extemporises. By some telepathy most puzzling to those who know the most about Gipsy dancing, the accompanists are not disturbed by any of the dancer's changes of mood, however sudden. The instant drop from extreme speed to the opposite never traps the guitarist into a mistake; and his air is remarkable, too, in preserving the sentiment as well as the time of the dance.
Anything like the full scope of Gipsy dancing is rarely revealed to any not of that race; because, done with abandon, it is an intimate revelation of nature. El Gitano is conscious of his racial and social inferiority, despite the arrogance he likes to assume. He is a vagabond living in waste places and by means, usually, of petty imposture, tolerated because of his impudent but very genuine wit. For these reasons a dance for pay becomes a scheme to extract the most money possible-for the least work. And the work itself, though skilful, is accompanied by a self-consciousness directly op-posed to the essentially Gipsy element of his dance.
A Spaniard who has got past the Gipsy's reserve is Eduardo Cansino, the dancer. As such it is an object for him to see their work at its best; from their all-night parties he has acquired steps. His diplomatic equipment consists, first, of an acquaintance with the Gipsy language, along with ability to make himself agreeable. Understanding of Flamenco dancing enables him to aid intelligently in the jaleo, that accompaniment of finger-snapping, hand-clapping and half-chanted, half-shouted phrases that make the Spanish dancing atmosphere what it is. (In Gipsy dancing the jaleo is "tricky," owing not only to suddenness of changes, but to frequent digressions into counter-time.) When asked to dance, Eduardo's hold on the company's respect is brought to a climax, as there probably is no better performer among the men of Spain. And with all the is willing to buy manzanilla as long as expediency suggests.
According to Eduardo, it is the exception when a dance performed at a Gipsy party fails to tell a story. Usually the story is improvised from a suggestion of the moment. Satire is popular; if one of the company has undergone an unpleasant experience in love, trade, or dealings with the guardia civil, it is capital for the dancer. Imitations of carriage and mannerisms of the persons represented are carried to that degree of realism made possible by the Gipsy's eternally alert observation and his expressive body; and he has no artistic creed to cause him to question the value of literal imitation. But the quality of greatness is not what one expects in Gipsy dancing; its contribution is the extreme of skilful, surprising grotesquery.
Notwithstanding the limitations that accompany an insistence on physical facts, the Gipsy's rendering of the great emotions is said to be impressive at the moment, even though it fails to record any lasting impression. Love, as in the dancing of almost all peoples, is a favourite motive, with its many attendants of allurement, reticence, jealousy, pursuit and surrender. But the repertoire is limited only by the Gipsy's scope of emotion—hatred, revenge, triumph and grief—his heart is probably about the same as any one's else, only less repressed by brain. So far is dancing from being merely an act of merriment that it is used in mourning the Gipsy dead.
Flamenco dances as seen in theatres and cafes are compositions made from the elements of Gipsy work; choreographic words grammatically related as is necessary, among other considerations, for accompaniment by orchestras of sober and dependable beings. The task has been admirably done; la Farruca, el Tango, and el Garrotin, the most popular Flamenco dances at present, preserve to admiration the Gipsy qualities. No less credit is due the composers of their accepted musical accompaniments; the indescribable Oriental relation of melody and rhythm, the Gipsy passion for surprise, they have preserved and blended in a manner charming and characteristic. It is only within the past fifty years that the process of adaptation began. Jose Otero, in his chatty Tratado del Baile, traces the movement to its beginning; which like many another beginning, was the result less of foresight than of desperation. The case was of a dancer whose Classic work failed to earn him a living. He strung together some Gipsy steps as a last resort and without hope, and was allowed to try them in a cafe cantante in Seville. Their success was instantaneous, and continues unabated. Even in the absence of the Gipsy's inimitable pantomime, there is comfort in seeing his dances under conditions of freedom from argument about extra charges for nothing at all, whines concerning starvation and sickness equally imaginary, care not to lose one's watch, and pressure to buy useless and foolish souvenirs at shameless prices. Par-ties to visit the Triana of Seville or the Albaicin of Granada are great fun, but a terrible strain on the patience of the person who accepts the responsibility for his friends' amusement.
If the Tango and its Flamenco kinsmen fail to conquer a permanent place in the Spanish repertoire, it will be through their exclusion from the respectable Spanish family. The daughter of the house does not learn dancing of the Gipsy type except in the unusual case that she is preparing for a dancer's career. The Flamenco has picturesqueness and "salt," but of dignity less. To the Spaniard, that which lacks dignity is vulgar, how-ever witty or graceful. Witty or graceful things may be enjoyed, though dignity be lacking; but the doing of such things is another matter. The Gipsy's untutored point of view on obscenity is a further argument against their admission into the home. It is not a structural part of any of the Flamenco work. But association has created a sentiment, and against sentiment logic is helpless.
La Farruca probably exploits more completely than any of its fellows the varied resources of the Flamenco. After one becomes accustomed to it sufficiently to be able to dominate one's own delight and astonishment, one may look at it as a study of contrasts, carried to the nth power. Now the performers advance with undulation so slow, so subtle, that the Saracenic coquetry of liquid arms and feline body is less seen than felt. Mystery of movement envelops their bodies like twilight. Of this perhaps eight measures, when—crash ! Prestissimo ! Like Gatling-fire the volley of heel-tapping. The movements have become the eye-baffling darting of swallows. No preparation for the change, no crescendo nor accelerando; in the matter of abruptness one is re-minded of some of the effects familiar in the playing of Hungarian orchestras.
Another use of contrast produces a sensation not unlike the surprise you get when, in the course of drinking one of those warm concoctions of sweetened claret, you unexpectedly bite a piece of cinnamon, and during a few seconds taste vividly the contradictory flavours of both spice and sweetness. The music is moving in a flowing legato. In counter-time to the notes is a staccato of crisp taps—of light, "snappy" hand-claps, and dry-sounding sole-taps on the floor, two varieties of accent alternating one with the other. Success of the effect depends on the very perfection of tempo, to begin with, and after that on a command of the quality of sound in the taps. A good deal of attention is given to the cleanness and brilliancy of the tone of these notes, as well as the cultivation of a good sparkling "tak" in snapping the fingers. Many performers carry in each hand a series of three ringing finger-snaps, loud enough to carry sharply to the back of their smallish theatres.
It is in respect to finesse of such details that most non-Spaniards condemn themselves to the mediocre when they attempt Spanish dancing. The mere steps can be learned by any one with an intelligence and two sound legs. Many students approximate the style. But the seemingly little things often act as the big pit-falls. The castanets, for instance, expose cruelly the lack of finish of many a pretender to laurels in the Spanish field; in the hands of their master they can ring, or sing, or click, or purr, as the mood of the dance suggests. To an amateur it would be illuminating to see the care a professional exercises in mating the little instruments in pairs. They vary in pitch, and have almost personal whims. For instance, in cold weather they fail to do themselves justice unless they are carried to the performance in an inside pocket. But this is straying from the Flamenco; castanets are in the main an adjunct of the Classio.
Returning to the subject of contrasts, the Flamenco, more than any other style in the world, perhaps, insists on difference between the work of man and woman. It is seen in the greater relaxation of the woman's body, the more complete elimination of angles from her movements. The degree of rigidity that the man's body should maintain is a point of justifiable difference between artists; so with the extent to which his movements should follow the lines of curves. But that curve should be the theme controlling the woman's movement and carriage, all agree. The result is to the eye as a duet of guitar and flute is to the ear. Following the comparison further, the dance duet does not confine itself to unison—identical movements of the two performers—any more than does the duet of music; and this correlation of two harmonised parts is not the least of the causes of madness imparted to spectators of good dancing.
In all dances evolved to the plane of art, a common device is to end a phrase with a turn—a pirouette, or something simpler, according to the character of the work. This general rule the Spanish follow. But look how the Farruca makes such a turn the opportunity for one of its myriad contrasts!
The renverse of the ballet has a kindred turn in la vuelta quebrada. Both are executed with an arm al-ways extended, so as to describe the maximum circle; of the vuelta quebrada the movement is low and horizontal, with everything done in such a way as to give the impression of a smooth, oily roll. The Farruca leads the woman up to this turn, or vuelta, through a series of short steps. Now visualise the man's part at the same time: as the woman enters her flowing vuelta, a mighty leap lands the man in the position of stooping; instantly he starts rising with a spiral movement that takes the form of a pirouette and so continues through the circle. The surprise the eye receives from the harmonised contrast between the extended horizontally moving sweep and the vertical spiral uplift, with its kaleidoscopic change of levels, seems never to grow less.
And if the man makes it a double pirouette instead of II a single, why, one simply shouts aloud with the joyous discovery that the law of gravitation and a lot of other cumbersome things have suddenly been abolished.
The Tango at the present moment familiar in North America found its way here from Argentina. In the form it takes here, its relation to the Tango of Spain is little more than a coincidence of names. In none of the Spanish dances does the man's arm ever go around the woman's waist—the purely Spanish, that is. Off-shoots and corruptions. to be found in the Latin Americas do not signify. The Spanish Tango is of the Flamenco group. It is a solo for a woman. By convention she performs it wearing a man's hat, the manipulation of which gives some grotesquely graceful occupation to her hands. Apart from this it is distinguished from the others of the group mainly by the sequence in which steps are combined; in spirit, elemental steps and poses, it conforms to the type of its family.
El Garrotin is distinguished by the importance it gives the hands. They repel, warn, invite; half the time they are held behind the back. So indirect are their hinted communications, so alien are their movements to any-thing in the Occidental way of thinking, that they unite with the girl's over-the-shoulder smile in an allurement no less than devilish.
Other dances of the same school are Marianas and Alegrias, long familiar. New ones introduce the names of las Moritas and Bulerias. Each has its personality, but all are composed of the Gipsy steps, performed in the sinuous manner, and rich with contrasts of fast and slow, soft and energetic movements. All are adorned with the stamping, sole-tapping, clapping and finger-snapping already described; though Marianas, as a quasi-Classic, may be performed with castanets. All moreover, are costumed alike, as indicated in the sketches and photographs, most of which in this chapter were made possible by the courtesy of Eduardo Cansino and his sister Elisa, of the family of one of the most capable masters in Spain. The man's suit is the habitual street dress of the Andalusian torero. It may represent a re-tiring taste by being of grey or brown cloth. But if it belong to one of those typical Sevillanos who believe that a man is an important decorative feature of the landscape, it may be of velvet—blue, wine-colour, purple in any of its shades, or jet-black. With the little pendant coat-button ornaments of gilt, as they may be; the silk sash, rose or scarlet, just showing under the waistcoat; with the shirt ruffled, and the collar fastened with link buttons, as it ought to be; and the whole animated with the game-cock air that the torero assumes as befitting a public mans, it is a costume not lacking in gallantry.
For the woman, convention has strained for a substitute for the inanely garish, shapeless garments of the Gipsy sister--a good note of colour they make on the hillside, but in all truth, a poor model for dressing when placed among formalised surroundings. The conclusion is a compromise shocking, on first impression, to the ideals of the Spanish dance. But, as though to con-firm the argument of the futurist painters, that colour-harmony is a matter of what you are accustomed to, you grow into an acceptance of it. Many people even like it. It his indeed this merit, that it is a realisation of the Gipsy's dream of elegance. Beginning with the inanton—the long-fringed flowered shawl—half of these bailarinas of the Flamenco seem to patronise some special frenzied loom that supplies their class alone. The richness of design that you saw on the manton of the lady in the next box at last Sunday's corrida you find replaced here in el teatro de variedades by an anarchy of colour, and poppies of the size of a man's hat. The skirt is stiffened in the bell-shape surviving other days, and well adapted to composition with Spanish steps; but the colours are of the piercing brilliancy attainable only by spangles. Orange, carmine, emerald-green and cerulean-blue are the favourite palette from which the scheme is selected, with the unit of design of a size that makes more than two of them impossible on the same skirt. Nevertheless, one accepts it with custom, aided by the seduction of the dance—which has been known to secure for its performers pardon for transgressions graver, in some eyes, than crimes against colour.
Artists there are, of course, who use the colour and spangles with taste and style, just as there are those of high ability and seriousness who select the Flamenco on which to build reputation. For dignity, however, we turn sooner or later to the Classic.
In Andalusia, the first dance you will hear named is las Sevillanas—unless you happen to be in Seville, where the same dance is known as Seguidillas. -The latter word lacks explicit significance. It applies to a form of verse, thence to analogous phrasing in musical composition, then to a structure of dance. In general it denotes a composition of three or more stanzas, or coplas, repeating the same music but changing the theme of the step. Various provinces and even vicinities have their special Seguidillas. The number of these and other dance-forms indigenous to Spain is uncounted, so far as we know; certainly any complete description of them individually would furnish material for many hundred pages of print, especially if the list should include the widely scattered derivatives. Mexico, Cuba, and various countries of South America have their local compositions; but of these many are mere degenerations of their original models, and. many are compounded with steps of the Indians. Since none has contributed anything of consequence, this chapter's necessary concentration on the work of Spain itself involves little real sacrifice.
It is Sevillanas whose easier movements are among the first undertaken by every well-reared Andalusian child, whose adequate execution is half the fame of most great Spanish dancers. Of all the dances, Otero calls it "the most Spanish." Yet it gives the spectator few detached pictures to carry away in memory. Its merit is in its cumulative choreographic argument.
Very broadly speaking, the prevailing foot-work i of the Seguidillas family is the pas de Basque—or, in Spanish, Paso de Vasco. Turns, advances and retreats are almost incessant. Variety of step is secured by frequent fouettes and f ouette tours (figures 43 to 46), the leg sweep in the latter being usually "inward," the foot, with most performers (at present) raised more than waist-high. Swinging steps, it will be noticed; choppy elements such as battements, entrechats and the like are, by distinction, the elements of the sharper work of the North. Sevillanas makes the feet less important than the hands and arms. These, however bewildering they are made to appear, follow a simple theme of opposition, as for instance: (1) left arm horizontally extended to the side, right arm across the chest; (2) right arm extended upward, left forearm across the back. As the simplest movement of club-swinging is incomprehensible to the person to whom it never has been explained, so with the arms in Sevillanas, with the bewilderment multiplied by the play of line effected by the arms of a couple.
The body is held with a combination of erectness and suppleness that is Spain's own; sympathetic to every move of hand or foot, yet always controlled and always majestic. The essence of this queen of dances is not in step or movement, but in its traditional style plus a steadily increasing enrichment through the successive coplas—an enrichment that depends principally on the perfection of team work at a rapid tempo, and one that adds greatly to the subtle difficulties. Many performers will inform you that a sixth copla does not exist. Of those who can execute it adequately, the majority re-serve it for competitions to present as a surprise.
The scope of moods from beginning to end of Sevillanas gives play to the lyric and the epic; allurement and threat; coquetry and triumph. It is a blend of the wine of Andalusia with her flowers and her latent tragedy. Not that it is particularly a vehicle for pantomime. Rather its suggestions are conveyed as are the motives of flowers, or architecture—by relations and qualities of line and form that work upon the senses by alchemy no more understood than that of music. The accumulating intricacy has been so artfully designed that, as the dance progresses, its performers actually seem to free themselves from the restrictions of earth. Each new marvel tightens the knot of emotion in the throat; shouts invoking divine blessings on the mother of the bailarina—"Que Dios bendiga tit madre!"—unite with the tumult of the jaleo. For shouting may save one from other emotional expressions less becoming.
The music contributes to this hysteria, of course. But, with no accompaniment but their own castanets, a good team can work the magic. That might be considered a test of the quality of composition in a dance, as well as of execution.
So gracious, so stately, so rich in light and shade is Sevillanas, that it alone gives play to all the qualities needed to make a great artist. When, a few summers ago, Rosario Guerrero charmed New York with her pantomime of The Rose and the Dagger, it was the first two coplas of this movement-poem that charmed the dagger away from the bandit. The same steps glorified Carmencita in her day; and Otero, now popular as a singer in the Opera in Paris. All three of these goddesses read into their interpretation a powerful idea of majesty, which left it none the less seductive. Taking it at a comparatively slow tempo, the perfection of every detail had its highest value. A new generation of performers has been rather upset by a passing mode of rapid foot-work, and under its influence too many of them tend to rush the dance and so detract from its majesty. True it is that a great work of art can stand a good deal of abuse; but any menace to such a work as the one discussed, points out the need of a national academy, where the treasures of the dancing art could be preserved from possible whims of even an artistically intelligent public, and the compliance of a non-resisting majority of artists. Unlike most great European nations, Spain has no national academy of the dance.
Fanny Ellsler electrified the America of our fathers' boyhood days with her interpretation of la Cachucha. Zorn's Grammar presents a choro-stenographic record of it, showing few elements that do not occur in Sevillanas. La Cachucha itself has disappeared from the Peninsula—practically at least, if not absolutely. Its existence is in printed records and a few old people's memories. The inference is that it was at a high pitch of popularity at the time of Ellsler's sojourn in Spain, h and that Sevillanas subsequently absorbed it. Showing ''the operation of an old process: "Our buildings and our weapons of war are renewed from day to day. . . . Chairs, cupboards, tables, lamps, candlesticks are also changed. It is the same with our games and dances, our music and songs. The Zarabanda has gone; Seguidillas are in fashion; which, in their turn, will disappear to make room for newer dances." So wrote Mateo Aleman, in the sixteenth century: He might a little more exactly have said "reappear in" instead of "disappear to make room for."
Sevillanas, as was said before, is Seville's special arrangement of Seguidillas. Valencianas and Aragonesas are among the modifying geographic words also in use; Vuillier quotes also Gitanas, Mollaras, Gallegas and Quipuzcoanas. These terms as localising modifications of Seguidillas may be no longer current. But their existence is significant, as indicating a parent trunk from which many local dance forms have branched. It seems pretty safe to infer that acquaintance with the general characteristics of the Seguidillas type gives us an idea of the essentials of some of the dances of very early times, by whatever names they may have been known. Like Sevillanas and la Cachucha, el Fandango ( which as a name has retired into the mountains of the North, and otherwise is preserved in the opera La Nozze de Figaro) is recorded as being a species of Seguidillas. The castanets are a link that binds the family, logically or otherwise, to earliest history.
The Fandango, though restrained in the theatre, seems at all times to have been danced in less formal gathering places in a manner more or less worldly. A story pertaining to it was written in the seventeenth century. The Pope (according to the story) heard that the Fandango was scandalous, and as a means of stop-ping its practice, proposed excommunication as a penalty for its performance. A consistory was debating the issue, when a cardinal proposed that the accused was entitled to an opportunity to defend itself. This seemed reasonable, and the dancers were summoned.
"Their grace and vivacity," says Davillier, "soon drove the frowns from the brows of the Fathers, whose souls were stirred by lively emotion and a strange pleasure. One by one their Eminences began to beat time with hands and feet, till suddenly their hall became a ballroom; they sprang up, dancing the steps, imitating the gestures of the dancers. After this trial, the Fandango was fully pardoned and restored to honour."
Whatever the lack of basis for the tale, it is a fact that the Church in Spain has recognised the dance as an art that, like music, lends itself to religious ritual. Seville Cathedral still has occasions for the solemn dance of los Seises. In 1762, dancers were taken from Valencia to help celebrate the laying of the foundation-stone of Lerida Cathedral. Instances might be multi-plied at length.
The costume most picturesque and romantic that woman has at her disposal for these dances is that of the madronero—the network dotted with little black balls, draped over the hips. Imagine the bodice black velvet, and the skirt golden-yellow satin, and you have a spotand-colour translation of Andalusia. But the dress of the madronero is not often to be seen; the spangled Flamenco costume is publicly accepted as the dress of a Spanish dancing girl.
The manton should be draped over the shoulders like a shawl in la Jota Aragonesa and other dances indigenous to central and northern provinces. It is Flamenco to fold it diagonally to form a triangle, and wrap it around the body in such a way that the depth of the triangle lies on the front of the body; the apex points downward, and is arranged to fall to one side of the centre. The other two ends are crossed over the back and brought forward over the shoulders; or one end may be tucked in, and the more made of the end that remains in sight.
The dance in which we see the white mantilla to which the Spanish girl owes a portion of her fame is la Malaguena y el Torero. Perhaps owing to the weight of the man's costume proper to the dance, it is not often performed; for the bullion-adorned dress of the torero is of a weight suggestive of anything but airy foot-work.
The characters of the piece—it is one of the very few Spanish mimetic dances—are represented, as might be expected, in a little flirtation. Of the three movements, the first is an animated paseo, or promenade, the torero wrapped in the capa de gala prescribed by ceremony as essential for matadores and banderilleros during their entrance parade into the bull-ring. The torero is, followed by the girl, her face demure in the half= shade of the overhanging mantilla. A manton carried folded over her arm, suggestive of a torero's cape, gives to the pantomime the key of fantasy; and her weapon of coquetry is a fan.
An elaborate series of advances, turns, meetings and passings prepares the torero to acknowledge that he notices the girl. (Mr. Bernard Shaw was not the original discoverer of feminine initiative in man-andwoman relations.) He looks at her and is delighted.
The music changes, and the second movement, la mimica, begins. He will spread his capa for her to walk over; but first he must flourish it through a couple of the movements familiar to patrons of the corrida. A veronica—"Ole!" roars the crowd, whose memory instantly correlates with the writhing cape the vision of a furious bull. A farol throws the brilliantly coloured cloth like a huge flower high in the air: a suerte de capa always magnificent, one of the ever-recurring flashes of surprise that make the corrida irresistible despite its faults. In consecutive movement the capa opens and settles fanlike before the girl, the boy kneeling as she passes. Rising, he tosses his cap for her to step on. A touch of realism, this! Andalusian usage permits this compliment, with the spoken wish that God may bless the sefaorita's mother. The second copla draws to a close with the boy's pantomime merging into dance step as he becomes more attracted to the girl. She is now evading, alluring, and reproving, while her movements insensibly succumb more and more to the dance music which has replaced the promenade tempo of the first part. The third copla is the dance—el baffle; capa, fan and manton are discarded for castanets. The steps are of the Seguidillas type; the number ends with the incredibly sudden transformation of a series of rapid turns into a group as motionless as statuary. This abrupt stop is a characteristic of Spanish dancing in general that always has been commented on, and approvingly, by its non-Spanish observers.
Las Malaguenas also employs mantilla and fan. This sprightly member of the Seguidillas family has no elements peculiar to itself, yet its insistent use of little steps adapts it to rapid foot-work. Manchegas is of the same nature. The two are often performed immediately after dances of less action, for the sake of variety.
"The Fandango inflames, the Bolero intoxicates," wrote an enthusiast of other days. And in respect to the latter the truth of his observation may be proved, since the Bolero is still with us, and always intoxicates every one of its spectators that is not deaf and blind.
Its composition is attributed to Cerezo, a famous dancer of the early part of the eighteenth century. Material for speculation is furnished by one of its steps in particular, the cuarta, identical with the ballet's entrechat-quatre. The invention of the entrechat is credited to the French dancer Camargo, who was not born until after the advent of the Bolero. The question is: Did the Bolero take the cuarta from Camargo, or did she, a progressive in her day, merely invent the name "entrechat" and apply it to a "lifted" cuarta? Certain it is that it fits its requirements in the Bolero like. a key in its lock. It is used in a passage dedicated to brilliancy, to which motive this twinkling, gravity-defying step is suited above almost all others. As rendered by the woman, it is dainty, as in the French ballet. But the Spanish man treats it in a manner that puts it into a category by itself, and transforms it from a little step to an evolution that seems suddenly to occupy the entire stage.
The cuarta at the height of the leap is only his be-ginning. As he descends, he kicks one foot up and backward, in a manner to give him a half-turn in the air. The leg movement opens up the lines of the elevated figure, giving it a sudden growth comparable to one of those plants that the Oriental magician develops from seed to maturity while you wink. The expansion is augmented by the extension of the arms at the opportune moment. Altogether, the spectator is prepared to believe that all physical law has been suspended in deference to the convenience of poetic motion. Davillier's observation that "the Bolero intoxicates" is wholly in-adequate.
The dance is in triple time, and arranged in three parts. The second divides the work of the two per-formers into solos, admitting whatever sensational steps each chooses to present, so long as they conform to the strong, aggressive style that tradition gives the dance. In this part are the cuartas, which good Spanish per-formers execute as cleanly as any French premiere. The man's work may include a series of jumps, straight up, opening the legs out to horiiontal; not in itself an attractive step, but an exaggeration of the idea of the Bolero. Throughout, the work is vigourous and sharp, of the character created by battements great and small, coupes, and choppily executed brises. The management of the castanets is a difficult addition to such vigourous foot-work, and important. To sustain, or rather constantly augment the excitement proper to the dance, the crash of the recurrent "tr-r-ra, tak-ta! tr-r-r-a, tak-s ta!" must never be dulled for an instant, nor fail of perfection in rhythm. The double control is seldom acquired by any but Spaniards, if ever, and even in Spain it is none too common.
Every lover of dancing probably thinks of his favourite compositions as personalities. "Queenly Sevillanas" inevitably is the way of thinking of-that flower of Andalusia. In similar manner memory puts together words, "the noble Bolero." Brusque but fine, strong and justly proud, it sings of iron in the blood, as Sevilanas exhales the spicy fragrance of hot night air.
Of los Panaderos the introductory measures are dedicated to the elaborate salutations appropriate to the etiquette of other days. The dance in general follows the motive of light coquetry through a pantomimic first part, concluding with a dance of the Seauidillas type, with castanets. Interest is enriched by the dance's proper costume. The girl's vestido de madronos has been described in connection with another dance, and the same reserved indulgence in the ornate is seen also in the attire of the man. The velvet jacket permits subdued but opulent colour; instead of buttonholes it has a lively design of cord loops. Down the sides of the breeches runs a broad band of colour that would be too violent were it not broken up by a superimposed band of heavy black cord lace, through the open pattern of which the background silk twinkles like jewels. It is a costume to make an impression at a distance or to tickle the eve on close inspection; the tasselled leather leggings are delicately adorned with scroll-pattern traced in stitching, and other details are elaborated with the same minute care.
Of all the energetic dances of the land of the dance, the one farthest from any concession to physical infirmity is la Jota Aragonesa. . Here is no vehicle for Andalusian languor nor yet for the ceremonies of courts. The industrious peasant of Aragon is hard of muscle and strong of heart, and so is his daughter, and their strength is their pride. For indolence they have no sympathy, be it in ermine or rags; and certainly if indolence ever forgets itself and strays into the Jota, it passes a bad five minutes.
It is a good, sound fruit of the soil, full of substance, and inviting to the eye as good sound fruit may be. No academy's hothouse care has been needed to develop or protect it; the hand of the peasant has cultivated without dirtying it. And that, when you look over the history of dancing in some more progressive nations, is a pretty significant thing. The people of Aragon are not novelty-hunters. Perhaps that is why they have been satisfied, while perfecting the dance of their province, not to pervert it from its proper motive—which is to express in terms of poetry both the vigour and the innocence of rustic, romping, boy-and-girl courtship.
A trace of stiffness of limb and angularity of movement, proper to the Jota, imbue it with a continuous hint of the rural grotesque. Yet, as the angular spire of the Gothic cathedral need be no less graceful than the rounded dome of the mosque, so the Jota concedes nothing in beauty to the more rolling movement of the dance of Andalusia. It is broad and big of movement; the castanets most of the time are held strongly out at arm's length. One of its many surprises is in the manner of the pauses: the movement is so fast, the pauses are so electrically abrupt, and the group (or "picture," as our stage-folk call it) in which the dancers hold themselves statue-like through a couple of measures is so suddenly formed, that a layman's effort to understand the transition would be like trying to analyse the movements of the particles in a kaleidoscope. Out of a dazzle of cross-tied white legs there snaps on to your retina a vision of a couple face to face, each on one knee; one, two, three, four—on each count the supporting knee comes up, its mate rhythmically bumps the floor. One measure; again they are in flight. Another stop, as from a collision with some invisible but immovable body—the girl is established in a seated position on the floor, madly playing her castanets, the boy flashing pirouettes around her. Bien parada, palomita! Pero anda! Another cyclone, a crescendo of energy in the thump of sandalled feet and the pulse-lifting clatter of castanets, and—dead stop ! She is impudently perched on his knee. Raised with the paisanos around you to the plane of the happy gods, you too are standing, shouting your rhythm-madness, tearing at scarf-pin, bouquet or anything to throw to the performers.
Down to the tuning of the castanets is emphasised the difference between this dance of the stalwart uplanders and the more liquid expression of Andalusia. It can be understood how, with the instruments fastened to the thumb, and hanging so as not to touch the palm, vibration is not interrupted after a blow from the finger; consequently they will ring when touched. The successive taps of four skilful fingers on a castanet so hung will make it sing, as is appropriate to the flowing dance of the South. But change the tie from the thumb to the two middle fingers and you change the voice: the blow of a finger presses together the two halves of the instrument, and throws both against the palm of the hand; vibration is stopped, and the report is a dry "tak" or "tok," which is consistent with and contributory to the crisp staccato sentiment of the Jota, with its kicking treatment of a running pas de bourree, swift pirouettes, and abrupt starts and stops.
There is a certain paradoxical relationship between the motives of step and music, perhaps peculiar to Spain, that asserts itself most clearly in the Jota. That is, the setting of brilliant dance-movement to the accompamment of melodies of a sadness sometimes unearthly. The juxtaposition does not always occur. When it does, as in the old Jota of Aragon and las Soleares of Andalusia, it is the very incarnation of the mysterious magic of a magic land; it is the smile forcing back the tear, words of wit spoken by the voice of sorrow. Or is the foreigner mistaken? The peasant himself sees no sorrow in the tunes, any more than in life.
Thumping the foot-beats gives an idea of the rhythm so far as related to the sound; but this fails more than to hint at the effect of the music in combination with the dance, because the dance so fills the conscious attention that the music is less heard than felt. The melody itself is unnoticed; but its underlying melancholy persistently cuts its way into the heart during the very moments that vision is most madly happy.
True to her modest and serious character, the peasant woman of Aragon puts on her manton like a shawl, sternly concealing her figure. Her full, rustic skirt is of dull-coloured cotton. For her no high-heeled shoes; her foot-wear—and her grandfather's—is the practical cord-soled sandal (alporgata) tied on with black cords, which, on their background of white stocking, have a coquettish look in spite of her. The man's dress is a representation of simple strength, saved from sombreness by we'll-disposed contrasting accents, few but brilliant. The lacing of the breeches slashed at the knee echoes the tie of the sandals. The waistcoat and breeches are black; the sash—worn very broad—may be either dull or bright; but the kerchief tied around the head is of colour as strong as dyes will produce. Red with a design of little black squares is characteristic ornament of the province.
Valencia, too, has its Jota, but of movement more fluid than that of Aragon. La Jota Valenciana is superficially distinguished by its employment of the tambourine; the only dance in Spain—with possible unimportant exceptions—to accompany itself with this instrument. In structure it is of the Seguidillas type, the coincidence of the term Jota being without significance.
To g0 into a discussion of the dances of the northern provinces--Cataluna, the Basque provinces, Galicia, Leon and others—would in most instances be to digress from the theme of Spanish dancing in any but a geographical sense. The dances of the northern region that are Spanish in type are-of the Seguidillas family already described, and without special pertinence to the locality. Conversely, the dances that are indigenous to and characteristic of the North are not of the type generally and properly known as Spanish, but, in respect to everything but geography, pertain to the character dances of western Europe. True, the Fandango is seen in the Basque provinces; but it is a stray from other parts. Galicia has a pantomime of oafish courtship. A dance characteristic of Quipuzcoa was described to us by Tencita: glasses of wine were set on the floor, of the same number as the dancers, all of whom were men. At a given time every one would jump—from a considerable distance and to a good height—with the aim of missing his glass by a minimum margin. This exercise —or dance, by charity of definition—is performed after important matches of the provincial game of pelota. Being of the general style of racquets, control of placement of the feet follows. Many of the dances, says Tencita, are rounds. Of these the salient feature is the man's lift of his partner. Some of those iron-shouldered mountaineers, grasping the girl's waist in two big hands, lift her straight up to arm's-length. But this, to repeat, is Spanish 'only by grace of political boundary lines. The same feat is described in a French rustic dance of the Middle Ages. So long as the tradition of round dancing joins the performers' hands to one another, choreographic art can hardly exist.
It is doubtful if the North has carried to the superlative any of the qualities of real dancing. In pure decorative beauty; variety and force of expression; scope of motive. happy contrasts of treatment—briefly, in the art of the dance, Andalusia speaks the final word. Who wishes natural pantomime need only, call a Gipsy. Mimica more delicate is that of Toreo Espafaol or el Vito, both narrating the placing of banderillas, defence with the cape, and the final despatch of a bull. In a combination of strong movement with speed and' grace, there does not exist in this world a dance-form to excel the Jota of Aragon.
The home of Spanish dancing is south of the latitude of Madrid, in the flowery region that the caliphs ruled. The pilgrim in search of dancing, therefore, shall not unsaddle until the nearest hilltop shows the ruins of a Moorish castle. By that token he will know that he has come to the land of grapes and fighting bulls, destitution and wit, black eyes, guitar and song, enchantment. There he may sell his horse; where falls the shadow of a castle of the Moors, on that soil blooms the dance.