Flamenco Paraphernilia

Beyond the core triad of song, guitar and dance in flamenco is a very wide and varied range of paraphernilia. I am referring here not merely to the innumerable CDs and DVDs, not to mention VHS videos and old-style cassettes, acquired over a lifetime of afición, but also to the many vital accessories that accompany flamenco passion. A mere glance at my dressing table and cupboards will clarify what I mean: flowers for the hair, mantones, fans (several colours and sizes), a hat, several very worn pairs of shoes and skirts with flounces and frills of all kinds –and as for a particularly unsightly orange dress with red polka dots that was used for one show, banished forever more to the inner depths of the bottom drawer of a cabinet, the less I say, the better!. Flamenco comes with many frills. Indeed, the near and dear ones of a flamenco lover are never at a loss when it comes to figuring out what to buy at Christmas or birthdays.

By the same token, visits to any city in Spain are never complete for me without a visit to the local flamenco shops. The cities of Andalucía are particularly rich in these. Take, for example, Azabache in Granada. Enter it and you are in a crammed frenzy of frills, colours and polka dots of all sizes. The tiny dressing rooms are inevitably busy and business is brisk. Shoes sit on counter tops, alongside fans and mantones. Mannequins, leotards, practice skirts and ornate dresses compete for space. The shop changed venue a few years ago, but here it is in its former site, on the square leading up to the university campus, with the owner in front:

Having said that, my favourite flamenco accessory has to be the mantón. I love the way mantones grace so many shop windows in southern Spain. Why? Because it is so versatile and speaks so eloquently of Spain’s colonial past, trade routes, cultural crossings and stereotypes. The mantón de manila  harks back, as the writer Benito Pérez Galdós reminds us in his wonderful novel Fortunata y Jacinta, to Spain’s colonial intimacies with the Phillipines and this is why it bears the look of oriental embroidery. Nowadays, it adds a vintage touch to any stage performance, adding a shade of stereotypical, timeless Spain to any choreography. It also lends itself to so many different uses. Beyond its role as an accessory for performance, it can also be thrown round the shoulders as a shawl, tied around the waist to accentuate the figure or simply folded and turned into a scarf. Lately, I have even come across some ingenuous flamenco tops stitched out of mantones with just a couple of shoulder straps and a zip attached. You may get some good ideas from this video:

January 15, 2012 Post Under General - Read More

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