The latest from IWCB ...      
Log in

Cultural Exchange - May 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012 6:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Dance from Spain, Music from India

We had a good turnout for this event.  As usual, we started with a relaxed, leisurely potluck lunch which featured a variety of interesting dishes including some elaborately decorated special seafood delicacies from Japan kindly offered by our guest Mrs Hammi H, wife of the Consul General of Japan. 

Attendees: Lalitha R, Sandra C, Ines A, Maria V, Meera G, Iko B, Marie-Alice G, Diana L, Elaine M, Pauline W, Judith M, Robin G, Mary S, Leona M, Mary Louise Hartley,

Guests:  Mrs. Hammi H, (wife of the Consul General of Japan), Julie (UK), Joanna (USA). 


We are fortunate to have some very talented artists in our organization. Two of our members shared the dance and musical traditions from their countries. It was an enriching experience as you will see from the attached video clips.

The program opened with dancing.  Maria V, a native of Spain, demonstrated the popular flamenco-style traditional dance form from Seville, Spain called  Sevillana.  Maria told us how she secretly learned the dance just before she got married so she could surprise her husband, (who is from the southern Spain) at their wedding.

Maria started with a colorful PowerPoint presentation that described the history, background and cultural evolution of the dance. She talked about the diversity in Spain, the differences between the Flamenco dance and the Sevillana dance form, both dating back to the 1400’s.

Maria noted that the FERIAS (fairs) play an important role in Spanish life.  The main Ferias are in Sevilla, Córdoba, Jaen, Huelva and Granada.

One of the best known is Sevilla Feria de Abril(held in April). It originated with the traders doing cattle trading and bullfights and traveling from town to town. Today it is a major fiesta and celebration. Women dress up in their traditional costumes and drive around in old fashioned horse drawn carriage. There is dancing and partying. There are little restaurants called casetas for food and drink. These are mostly privately owned but there are some public casetas too.

Another Feria is the Romería de El Rocio. It is held in May.  It is more religious, (Pentecostal).. Every year a procession of pilgrims travel to the Chapel of Almonte in Huelva, carrying the Virgin of El Rocio around the village. The Chapel was set up by Alfonso X The Wise, after he conquered the area from the Muslims in 1200.

It is a long, hard, pilgrimage over hills and across rivers and the roads are rough and dusty. People pray, dance, sing and walk, for a week. People from all walks of life participate from the ordinary folk to the Royal family, celebrities and the Pope.

Yet another Feria is called Las Cruces de Mayo.  The legend is that Emperor Constaintine I, in the sixth year of his reign, confronted the Barbarians on the banks of the Danube, in a battle where victory was believed to be impossible because of the great size of the enemy army. One night, Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky, and by it the words “In hoc signo vincis” (With this sign, you shall be victorious). The emperor had a cross made and put it at the front of his army, which won an easy victory over the enemy multitude. On returning to the city and learning the significance of the cross, Constantine was baptized as a Christian and gave orders to construct Christian churches.  So, to this day, people set up creative, decorative crosses all around the city. There are competitions and awards given for the best patio cross, best street cross, school cross, town hall cross, shop cross, church cross, park cross etc…

People gather in groups and they walk the city from cross to cross, and go from bar to bar for drinks and tapas. Around the city there are open spaces for dancing.  It is a time to celebrate!

Maria then described the do’s and dont’s of the typical fashion and accessories (peinetas,flowers, mantilla) of a flamenco/sevillana outfit. For details see the pictures at:

Maria then demonstrated three dances accompanied by music (guitar and castanets) and the beat set by the clapping of the palms of the audience members to three dance songs:

  • “Pueblos de Andalucía” (About white villages in Andalucia: mountains or sea coast, white and bright in the sun).
  • “Quiero cruzar la bahia” (About life in the seaside, sailing in Huelva).
  • “Tócala” (A traditional dance typical to the whole of Spain).

It was great fun, especially at the end when everyone got a chance to join Maria on the stage and learn a few steps.

After the dance, Meera G from India presented.  She has had voice coaching lessons in Indian classical singing for many years and continues to do so to this day. The genre that she is being trained in is Hindustani classical. She brought with her several Indian instruments that typically accompany a Hindustani Classical concert, (the tanpura, harmonium and tabla). She explained the role of these instruments and demonstrated how they work. She spoke little about the history of Hindustani music, which originated 1000 BC, (about 3000 yrs ago).  Meera explained the music theory and then she sang several songs.  For those of you who are interested in learning more, Meera kindly wrote up a a one-page summary describing this ancient genre of music which has its origins in Vedic Hindu tradition and Persia and the Sufi tradition.

Many of the audience members commented on how they were lulled into a trance like state by Meera’s beautiful voice.

- submitted by Lalitha

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software