If we were to point out a style of flamenco that has crossed borders, known and loved all around the world, it has to be sevillanas. In this article, we will go over everything there is to know about sevillanas, and how they are sung and danced. Also, keep on reading for an introductory guide to get you started if you have never danced sevillanas before. Read on!
The Origin of Sevillanas
It is believed this style dates back to the so called seguidillas castellanas, which precede the Catholic Monarchs. Over the centuries, flamenco began to progressively influence these compositions until both styles merged in the 18th century.
Even though Real Academia Espanola (Royal Spanish Academy) didn’t register the term sevillanas until 1884, sevillanas as such are documented to have been part of the Seville Fair since the first time it was held, in 1847. As we have already mentioned, this style is currently sung and danced all over the world, which makes it the most popular flamenco genre.
Features of the Sevillana
Sevillanas are danced following a compás, its rhythm unit, of 3 beats: a salient beat followed by two less accentuated ones. This dance is made up of a total of 43 bars. Usually, it is danced with a partner; however, it is possible to find experimental shows in which more than two dancers perform together.
Each sevillana is made up of 3 coplas or sections. which are performed in a set of 4 steps: paseillos, standard sevillana steps; pasadas and careos, passing movements; and the remate, the grand finale. In the last copla, the dancers’ goal is to match the music with their performance, so that the final desplante, the woman’s rejection, shows a romantic and provocative effect of great beauty.
Singing in Sevillanas
Singing in sevillanas accompanies the music perfectly, following its three-beat structure. Since we’re talking about a composition widespread among the working-class, its most frequent themes deal with everyday life, religion or partying:
- Love and rejection
- Praising Seville and the Fair
- Pilgrimages and holy figures (the White Dove, the Virgin of El Roclo, Jesus, Easter festivities, among others).
Each and every lyric is made up of 7 verses, which are organized in:
- A four-verse stanza, in which the first and third verses are heptasyllabic and the second and fourth are pentasyllabic.
- A three-verse chorus executed with the bassy section of a guitar.
Music and Instruments That Accompany Sevillanas
Sevillanas start off with a guitar strum in any tone, which introduces the singing —that in turn introduces the dancing—. Although the guitar’s rhythm and the singing are enough to kick the sevillana off, it is normally accompanied by clapping that sets the beat. Other instruments, such as castanets, drumsticks, small drums or tambourines may come into play as well.
How to dance a sevillana:
Even though most people have tried to dance a sevillana at a party, the truth is that properly executing these dance steps is harder than it looks, as proven by the hundreds of dance schools in nearly every country in the world. Up next, we’ll provide you with the basics you need to know to get started with this form of art.
Structure of a Sevillana
Sevillanas are divided into four different parts, one for each copla. Often, the lyrics tell a love story that is staged in the following way:
- In the first part, the woman flirts with the man, who comes to meet her despite her ignoring or rejecting him.
- The second part represents the art of seduction, which is why the dancing is more sensual and the dancers are closer together.
- The third part symbolizes deception or anger, and the dancers cross paths side by side, rather than facing each other. This stanza is the most appropriate one for a heel-tapping, and ends with the dancers turning their backs on one another.
- Finally, in the fourth part or reconciliation, the couple face each other once again.
Sevillanas’ main moves
To achieve the desired result, it is essential that both dancers are perfectly synchronized and harmonic so that they mirror each other’s steps during both the four coplas and the paseillo.
Keeping a correct posture (gaze held high, a straight back, chest put out and shoulders held back), raise both arms in a wide circle above your head and slowly lower the arm on the outside of the circle, moving one leg forward at the same time.
It is essential to move your hands subtly, yet gracefully, making a fan with your fingers and rotating your wrists inwards and outwards, making sure it doesn’t seem artificial, but natural.
Enjoy a Sevillana dance in the Gran Gala Flamenco Shows
If you want to delight your eyes with a Sevillana live performance, you can not miss the shows by the Gran Gala Flamenco company in the Teatro Poliorama or the Liceu; our extraordinary artistic ensemble will amaze you with their breathtaking artistic skills.