Dancing Clowns and Desert Dunes: Challenging Traditional Imagery in Flamenco-Fusion

In: Activating the Inanimate: Visual Vocabularies of Performance Practice

The opening scene of Malucos Flamenco (2002), a flamenco piece by Carlos Chamorro and the Malucos company, reveals two odd-looking clowns. The visual aspects of these characters place them in contrast to traditional flamenco imagery: their faces are completely painted in white apart from big red noses, and they are only partially dressed with a variation of a classical tutu skirt. This circus-like imagery creates an aesthetic conflict between the visual language and the expectations deriving from the show's title, thus challenging the spectator’s reception process. The images presented in Malucos’ work exemplify a new stylistic tendency in contemporary flamenco, which is termed in this chapter as flamenco-fusion. This tendency has evolved since the early 1990s, and is identified with the work of additional flamenco choreographers. Despite the differences between these artists, their works nonetheless manifest a relating set of fundamental features, most notably the integration of different styles of movement syntax and musical composition. Moreover, this hybridity functions as part of an innovative visual language, which emphasizes the role of stage design in the construction of meaning. This feature contrasts the fundamental characteristic of flamenco as an art form in which the dancing body transmits emotions, values and meanings in a scenografically ‘abstract’ or empty space. The submitted chapter will demonstrate how choreographers that realize this particular style break away from traditional flamenco imagery by adopting contemporary artistic strategies, such as: multi-media and video-art based performances, multidisciplinary compositions, intertextuality and references to visual imagery from cinema and the arts, and images of gender ambiguity. This innovative visual language reflects a cultural-artistic discourse, which simultaneously reacts to the traditional role of flamenco as Spain’s national dance, while placing flamenco-fusion as a new and relevant paradigm for this dance in contemporary Spain.

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