Queer Flamenco

Author: Nino Bekaia

”A dark stage, a dancer dressed in a long, traditional red dress stands in front of the audience. The sound of a guitar is heard, Eres una rosa – ” You are a rose ” – a song is heard and the dancer shakes slightly, as if gathering energy. The song goes on, the dance begins. The viewer sees a very familiar and at the same time unexpected scene – a flamenco dancer in a red dress, with a stern look and an airy movement, is not a woman. This is dancer Manuel Lignan, the creator and star of the show ” Viva! ”, Writes the New York Times.

The show was hosted not only by Spain, but also by other countries. Roger Salas, a critic for the famous Spanish magazine “El Pais”, describes the show as “one of the best things happening in the history of flamenco today.”

Flamenco is unique in its essence and form of expression. It has a long history of centuries of music and dance, where men have strictly defined movements, the rules about holding the torso and hips in a particular position, and less movement of the hands. Women, on the other hand, can use their wrists and hips to move the torso differently.

Manuel Lignan points out that from childhood it was unnatural for him to follow the strict rules set for men in dance. From childhood he was taught to dance “como un hombre” – as a man. Flamenco is not just a movement, it is a state, an emotion and an expression of oneself. Later, Manuel also introduces the movements of a woman during the dance, which makes his dances more emotional and free. In the show, besides him, several men dressed in traditional flamenco dresses wore pinnets on their hair – a woman’s hair accessory and flowers.

Rocio Molina is a lesbian dancer who also went beyond the rules. Molina has made changes to her dancing since she was a student. In particular, the defined movements of the hip, which turned out to be artificial for her, were replaced by man’s movements. “I can dance with the same or more force than any man,” said Molina. Each of her dances is so emotional, so powerful and extreme, when you watch, you think, the energy emanating takes you away and you feel all her emotions. You look at this dancing woman and she seems to be in a trance, she goes into her own subconscious and tells you a story.

In her solo show, ” Caída del cielo ”, which took place in New York, Molina uses some sort of vessel filled with red liquid during the dance, which is then poured on the stage. This performance expresses the experience of being her world and body. ” From menstruation, including pregnancy and the postpartum period, women are considered a kind of dirty monster even today. “I wanted to show the beauty of these situations,” Molina said.

Modern flamenco artist and theorist – Fernando Lopez Rodriguez believes that flamenco has always had queer elements. In the early 20th century, cross-dressers (dressed in clothes of the opposite sex) often performed. During Franco’s reign, Flamenco moved to the underground scenes until the 1960s. From that period on, first cross-dressing dancers appeared at queer parties, and then in front of a large audience. The appearance of men in traditional women’s dress was even more dangerous at first, as the law persecuted homosexuals for ”immoral behavior”. Flamenco turned out to be less dangerous to women because a woman dressed in trousers was less dangerous in a heteronormative setting for Spain at the time. Moreover, the pants made the dancer’s legs look good, which was a samurai skirt for men and made women into a sexual object.

Time passed and Spain changed. For 16 years, gay marriage has been legalized despite opposition from the Catholic Church. Even today, queer dancers from time to time receive homophobic comments, and as Manuel Lignan puts it, “This is the world we live in.” Despite everything, the world of flamenco is ready for queer dancers. Their show is sold out in different countries of the world.

Art changes with society and if it does not change, it becomes irrelevant. Art is being changed by artists such as Manuel Lignani and Rocio Molina.

Materials used:

A Dancer’s Disruption of Conservative Flamenco Culture ”, Fergus Mclfosh, The New-Yorker Documentary, 2021

Flamenco Dancers who ‘Move Between Genders”, Camila falquez, New-York Times, 2020

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