Cristina Hoyos, probably the most famous flamenco dancer of all time (her image from the 1960s is often used to represent the iconic flamenco dancer, with a slicked-back raven-black chignon and a fiercely passionate demeanor), founded this museum full of interactive exhibits. It also features a popular nightly flamenco performance. Even if you can’t make the live performance, video displays tell the story of the history and various styles of this noisy, sensual and compelling art form.
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My favorite museum in Seville is the Flamenco Museum. It has a fascinating history of flamenco dancing in southern Spain and there a terrific series of short films showing the different styles of flamenco. There are also romantic old posters of the dancers and a section with flamenco dresses, costumes, and shoes. You will be inspired to go to a flamenco performance straight away.
On a warm night in southern Spain in front of an 8th century Moorish mosque, a guitarist plays a sad melody. A seated man in black sings and claps in syncopation unfamiliar to Western ears, and the crowd stills in anticipation. When the lithe dancer dressed in tight equestrian wear walks onstage, she arches her wrists into the moonlight and begins to undulate to the singer’s rhythm.
This is Flamenco, the gypsy dance influenced by centuries of Muslim, Catholic, Indian, Jewish, Greek and African migration around the Mediterranean into Andalucia—Spain’s iconic heartland.
Once the seat of the Spanish crown, Seville is the stuff of romantic high opera, from Bizet’s Carmen to Mozart’s Figaro. I visited the high-tech Museum of Flamenco here where computer imagery and historic artifacts are combined to communicate the spirit of the dance. Explore that before visiting the nightly performances at Casa Carmen Arte Flamenco, Tablao Flamenco El Arenal and Tablao Flamenco Los Gallos.
I remember when I saw my first flamenco show at El Arenal, I was expecting something similar to tango. But flamenco is often violent. There are moments of poetic grace and there are bursts of fury when the female dancers stomp their heels in outrage. Flamenco is a story about life explored through all our emotions.
“Flamenco is so much more than singing and dancing,” museum director Dr. Kurt Grötsch tells me. “It’s part of the Andalucian identity, very fluid and full of passion and sensuality.”