(by Linda Machado)
“Around the turn of the [20th] century the Cafes Cantantes began closing down in earnest, and flamenco moved into theatrical “fines de fiestas” and other such vaudeville-type shows. A reasonable amount of purity was maintained in this unlikely atmosphere, as the baile gitano was still at a premium. But with the next logical step, the ballet español (large theatrical groups who perform a mixture of Spanish, classical, regional and flamenco dances), bailaoras were replaced by bailarinas who also danced a little flamenco, and the flamenco dance became refined, stylized, civilized. These ballet companies traveled far and wide and were clamorously accepted, with the result that ballet flamenco was soon considered the flamenco. The authentic flamencos, the interpreters of the old-time jondo dance, found the transition all but impossible to make, and repaired, unwanted and outmoded, to the back rooms of colmaos and ventas. Authentic flamenco began dying, while ballet flamenco became big business, each year bigger, more contaminated, and more stylized. Save for an occasional theatrical effort at genuine flamenco, there was little hope….
The 1950′s arrive. Some gentlemen in France inexplicably contract Perico el del Lunar to make an anthology of the cante antiguo. Perico, admittedly cynical about the undertaking (“I thought we would put the people to sleep, and told the record people so”), nevertheless locates some excellent old-time singers who still sing the cante antiguo, teaches a few forgotten cantes to younger cantaores, and comes up with a masterpiece of an anthology that has the startling effect of awakening international interest, particularly among the intellectuals, in the flamenco of old.
The cante begins reviving, the guitar is struggling ahead, but it is nearly too late for the dance. In the interim most of the masters of the old school have died away, and there are few left who can interpret and teach the authentic baile flamenco. Besides, the general public is ballet oriented, and are startled and a little revolted by unconcealed primitiveness. They want their flamenco in sophisticated, watered-down doses guaranteed to entertain, not involve.”
Excerpted from “Lives and Legends of Flamenco,” a Biographical History by D.E. Pohren, 1964, revised 1988.
Flamenco has enough trouble being understood by an audience. It does not need any further confusion. When dancers lose respect for themselves, and then lose respect for the art form itself, contributing to the audience's misconception as to what Flamenco is supposed to be, there appears to be little hope for the survival of the art.
Do we need to wait for 2050 to come around to see a revival of the "ART" of Flamenco?