Reminiscing the Spanish flavour - Pasodoble music (2)
Pasodoble as in ballroom dancing has been influenced by the type of music used in Spanish bullfighting scenes. For this reason, the male dancer is expected to imitate the movements of a matador, while the female dancer could perform as his cape or his shadow, both expressing Spanish bodylines and attitudes.
Considering this nature, it seems (to me) a little awkward when some dancers choose non-Spanish music for their Pasodoble dance routines. Sometimes it can be English rock music, a Hollywood movie soundtrack, etc. In theory they could possibly use any music piece with strong double-rhythm and display a fantastic performance, but... a tune which lacks Spanish influence wouldn’t quite bring a Spanish feel regardless of excellent choreographies and costumes. Maybe this trend has something to do with modern negative reactions towards bullfighting… or I don’t know.
Not completely dismissing this current tendency though, I’d like to reminisce about ‘traditional’ Spanish Pasodoble music here, feeling the ‘(stereo)typical’ Spanish air.
This commonly-known Pasodoble was composed in 1923 by Pascual Marquina Narro, as an instrumental piece. The distinctive melody is therefore usually heard as instrumental-only, but some singers added lyrics to amplify Spanishness, like this version (1982) written and sung by the copla singer Manolo Escobar:
‘España Cañi’ by Manolo Escobar
El Gato Montés
Known as ‘The Wild Cat’ in English, the opera of this title, created by Manuel Penella, gained popularity throughout Spain as soon as it premiered in Valencia in 1916. The titular tune has been beloved by both Spaniards and foreigners alike, along with the appealing plot about the rivalry between two bullfighters fighting over a gypsy girl in the attractive setting of Andalusia.
Here, the castanet-playing musician Inma González has added joyously crispy musicality to the classical sound:
‘El Gato Montés’ by La Orquesta Sinfónica de Las Palmas, featuring Inma González
According to the book ‘The Language of Spanish Dance’ by Matteo Marcellus Vittucci, Pasodoble used to be chosen as a ‘fin de fiesta’ number in Spanish Dance concerts in the 1920s and 1930s, just like how we currently treat Bulerías or Rumbas in flamenco shows. The legendary dancer La Argentina (1890 - 1936), for instance, often concluded her show with the Pasodoble number ‘La Corrida’ by Joaquín Valverde who was known as a composer of Zarzuelas. Unlike typical Pasodoble that is in binary rhythm, the middle part of this piece incorporates ternary rhythm, encouraging a flamenco-y atmosphere.
In this video, José Luis Landry Pallarés reinterpreted the sounds of castanets to let us imagine how La Argentina would have danced to this music with palillos:
‘La Corrida’ by Antonia Mercé ‘La Argentina’, reinterpreted by José Luis Landry
(This video cannot be played on this page, but you must be able to go to the YouTube page by copying this link)
Having many more variations, Pasodoble isn’t just a bold style of dancing but also a music genre through which we can embrace the culture of Spain in our imagination. We need Spanish flavour in Pasodoble, as a dance as well as music.
Matteo Marcellus Vitucci. The Language of Spanish Dance: A Dictionary and Reference. Princeton Book Company, 2003