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Chapter Twenty-nine – Flamencos (Part Three)

Castañuelas : Children : Erotic Elements : Fandango : Gipsy-girls

Castañuelas : These are not only musical instruments which produce rattlings and drumbeats, trills, cooings and warblings – merely to keep up a rhythmic rattling is very difficult, as I know by experience – but also, and particularly, dance instruments which make the twirl of the dance pass into the fingers and, just like a kettle-drum, raise the arms in a swooping curve above the head into that splendid fundamental gesture of Spanish dances.

The actual sound of the castañuelas recalls darkest Africa with its frantic hankering after the rhythm of the drum-beat. When, during one of those whirlwind dances, the ear-splitting clatter of the castanets is heard amid piercing, provocative shouts and a rhythmical clapping of hands, then, dear reader, there is such a thrilling uproar, that it almost made me jump up and begin to caper riotously; so violent is its effect upon feet and head.

Children : In the streets of Seville they dance a winsome measure, with one hand above the head and the other akimbo, the frock lifted for greater ease of movement; a disdainful dance, with haughty shrugging gestures, and also a seemly dance. Little girls dancing in groups, miniature, doll-like figures of ballerinas, stamp their tiny heels and imitate the sultry and aggressive dance of the grown-up performers.

Erotic elements : Spanish dances cover the whole range of the erotic emotions, from the amorous dalliance to orgasm; but always, even in the most dignified quadrille, the erotic element is a trifle provocative; it is not the type which is displayed in the tango, but it excites, recoils and entices, challenges, threatens and slightly mocks. There are diabolical, amatory dances; but they never lack a metallic mainspring of pride.

Fandango : This is danced in a dress with a lengthy train; to whirl round while wearing such a train, to kick it aside gracefully, to twirl like a top and stamp the heels – all this demands consummate skill and is a fine sight; for this dance spurts up miraculously from a froth of flounces and lace petticoats.

Gipsy-girls : Most of them are from Triana; for dancing they wear a long smock-like dress which in olden times they used to lay aside; and what they dance is in its essentials the cancan, the legs straddled and the body bent back as far as the ground. The music lashes the dancer on more and more feverishly, the protruding belly whirls more and more violently, naval and hips rotate, the hands writhe snakily, the heels are stamped defiantly, the body bends forward, as if it were struggling in the hands of a ruffian, a screech, and the gipsy-girl is sinking to the ground as if laid low by a spasm of bliss. It is a wild dance, boisterous and convulsive; in it, sex, launching an attack, creeps, thrusts and parries; the phallic cult of some formidable sect.