The origins of flamenco are unclear, but historians believe the iconic Spanish dance style was born in Andalusia during the Renaissance. At first a kind of unaccompanied singing, flamenco evolved as the performers added guitars and then rhythmic hand clapping and foot stomping to complement the songs.
The folk music at the heart of flamenco was a reflection of the multicultural environment of 15th-century southern Spain. Gypsies -- the Roma people -- were entering the region, bringing with them a culture influenced by their travels from India through the Middle East. At the turn of the 16th century they were joined in the mountainous regions of the country by Moors and Jews fleeing the Inquisition.
Whatever the beginnings of flamenco might be, it was only during the last century that the music and dances began to be performed as a theatrical art. Dancers such as Antonio Ruiz Soler, known as the "Great Antonio," and Antonio Gades popularized the form internationally. Today acknowledged masters such as Jose Porcel tour world stages regularly.
This weekend Porcel brings his company to George Mason Universiy's Center for the Arts for a concert titled "Flamenco Feeling." The show features eight principal dancers and six musicians collaborating on 10 dances that comprise several of the classic flamenco forms including the fast-paced and dramatic buleria, the technically demanding and expressive segurilla and the energetic farruca.
Porcel, who dances two solos in the program, is a native of Seville. As a teenager, he studied with master Martin Vargas, who made Porcel a principal dancer with the Ballet de Valencia in 1989.
By the early 1990s Porcel was choreographing his own works, touring internationally and dancing with the Ballet Nacional de Espana. In 2000 he was a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and began a world tour as a first dancer in the Compania Espanola de Antonio Marquez.
-- C. WOODROW IRVIN
The Center for the Arts is on the Fairfax campus of GMU at Braddock Road and Route 123. Tickets are $42, $34 and $21 and are available by calling 888-945-2468. For more information, visit www.gmu.edu/cfa/.