What I Miss - My Case of Flamenco Lockdown (3)
If there is such a thing, one of the benefits of the lockdown is that we got adept at online communication more than ever. Flamenco events can also be held online, which is in a way convenient to temporarily fulfill the needs of both the artists and fans, but… I feel… we must not get too used to this situation for the sake of flamenco.
Even before the lockdown, I’ve sometimes witnessed a lack of flamenco-quality in a show, especially when it’s held in a big theatre. Maybe some people would say it’s duende, but I don’t exactly know what it is - it’s something to do with directness, palpability, tactility, intimacy, passion or those such things that make what flamenco is supposed to be. You could, sometimes, attribute this lack to the level of performance… but it could also be due to proximity.
I’d usually try to book a seat in the very front row in the venue, when I go to a theatrical flamenco show. Even though the closeness to the stage restricts my view of the dancer’s feet, being able to sense the physicality of the performers is irreplaceable. You could even feel or imagine the rhythm of their breathing, illuminated dust in the air (or splashes of sweat…?), radiated energy, detecting hidden communication between the performers…
A big scale of a theatre sometimes kills this kind of intimacy and palpability. A critically acclaimed flamenco show could sometimes end up as a cold, disappointing experience for an audience if consumed from a seat quite far from the stage, regardless of the quality of the show. I’ve actually had such experiences from celebrated productions by award-winning flamenco artists. However famous they are, how much arte they display, such a theatre experience could be beautiful to the eye but unsatisfying to the soul. To feel ‘flamenco-ness’ from particular performances or fiestas, a distance can be an obstacle.
It’s not ideal, but...
In the online platform, our physical distance could virtually disappear and there are certain advantages, but the events are now transmitted as consumable samples without physicality. It’s not like going to an actual gig, for example, which could be added to our memory album of life experiences to cherish as a part of our lives. In the digital format, on the other hand, the contents can still be inspiring, but the occurrence loses palpability and becomes ‘information’ to be processed. Can we still… feel ‘flamenco-ness’ from this format, as much as before?
The irony is that, with the prohibition of actual contacts, it’s almost the only way for us to save the culture of flamenco from going extinct in the hardship of the arts in general. We, therefore, rely on the digital scheme for the time being.
Even when we ‘consume’ online resources with enjoyment, we should try not to forget the palpability and sensuality of ‘real’ flamenco events that we used to know, in which we used to feel being a living part of the emergence, both as a performer and a member of the audience. While making flamenco culture survive with the aid of digital format, we should also remember that... ‘flamenco’ isn’t there, and we need to rediscover it when the lockdown is over.