On March 6th of last year my dear soul sister and friend Jacqueline Shimmiezz invited me to a Flamenco performance at the New York city center. Jacqueline is a Registered dietician and a belly dancer at heart. Music and dance have been integral part of her life, igniting her with strength, healing and connection. I'm blessed to have her as my close friend because she teaches me to be a more sensitive gentle and loving person.
That flamenco performance resonated deeply with my spirit. It moved me a lot. Throughout the entire performance i was at the edge of my seat admiring every aspect of this powerful traditional dance.
The Flamenco dance has its roots deep in the regions of Spain and beyond, and it is the spirited inspiration behind my second collection. I brought together the rich melding of cultures and traditions that are pieces of the history of the Flamenco to present flirty, rich, and sensual designs.
What is the Flamenco?
What we recognize as the modern Flamenco dance consists of three major elements: singing (cante), dancing (baile), and guitar (guitarra). There is a strong rhythm to the music that began as a vocal artistic expression. More modern examples of the Flamenco bring to life the spirit of the music through the definitive centerpiece of the dancing.
The Origins of the Flamenco
The sexy and passionate dance known as the Flamenco has a history reaching back into Spain when it was under Arab rule more than 200 years ago. The Andalusia region was home to a mix of people from a variety of religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. Indian, Arabic, and European influences all contributed to the development of this music genre and eventual incorporation of dance. The Indian gypsies brought their living-on-the-edge characteristics to the musical tones that were already played in this region. The influences of European and Arabic religions also contributed to the development of the Flamenco.
At first the Flamenco was only really a voice, echoing a primitive chant that was accompanied by the rhythm of wooden sticks being beaten on the floor. Just imagine a remote meeting hall with wooden floors, the sounds reverberating off the floorboards. This eventually evolved to rhythmic clapping, and the audience became more and more involved by dancing. The intense sound of footsteps intermingled with the swirling, colorful garments worn by the dancers.
As political and religious unrest settled upon the region, the music of the Flamenco was a piece of respite played in individual homes and by small groups of gypsies who gathered to find relief from the surrounding unrest and comradery among others in their communities. They danced as expressions of themselves. My latest collection reflects that spirit of individuality and tenacity, and it embraces the essence of the beautiful gypsies who danced the Flamenco.
The gypsies in particular continued to adapt the Flamenco music until the mid to late 1800s when the dance first entered and became popular in ballrooms and was played in Café Cantarites. The rhythmic songs also then included the guitar for accompaniment. The early 1900s saw the Flamenco develop into a passionate musical experience, embraced by people from many different backgrounds. The dancer became the main focus of this culturally rich music. What used to be the pounding of the sticks on the floor became the pounding of dancing feet and the dresses and skirts of the dancers turned this musical experience into a visual experience as well. When I wear garments from this collection I feel like the centerpiece in my own world – and that is how those very special pieces in our wardrobes should make us feel - empowered. Girls would stop me on the street asking who designed the clothes. That is the best gift a designer could get.
The Flamenco Inspiration
The Flamenco dance embodies spirit, strength, beauty, and passion. This means everything from the fabrics I chose to the lines on the pieces needed to reflect these elements. The colors are rich and lively just as the gypsy dancers were energized and passionate, not subtle and demure and blending into the background.
If you have ever seen a Flamenco dance, you know you can feel the energy of the dancers and feel their passion in the air. Their dance moves make an artistic statement that is full of a sexual energy and raw beauty, and the collection we are working on gives the wearer those same desirable sensations.