- Typical Spanish... Regional Spanish dances
- Featured City... Seville and the Holy Week
- Famous Person... Miguel Induráin
- Spanish recipe... "El pisto"
- Popular Sayiing... “Ir por lana y salir trasquilado”
- Vocabulary... Semantic Field of Sounds
- Word of the month... “Ignominioso”
Although it may seem to the outside world that everyone in Spain dances flamenco, the truth of the matter is that there are actually many regional dances of which there are quite a number and each one with its own nuances. This month we will give you an insight - not in to all of them as the list is extensive - to some of the most famous – to some of the most well known ones.
La jota: This is one of the most far reaching, danced in Aragon, Castile y Leon, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura, Navarre, La Rioja, Valencia, Murcia and over in the Balearic Islands. The dance is accompanied by a bandurria (mandolin / lute-type instrument) and lutes, and sometimes drums and even the gaita (Spanish bagpipe-like instrument). Its exact origin is unknown although it is often said that the dance’s name originates from the Moorish word šáwta, meaning jump, which gives you an idea of how it is danced.
Sardana: This Catalan dance is said to be from Sardinia and carried to Catalan soils during the Renaissance. It is danced in groups of circles alternating men and women within the ring alongside sounds from typical Catalan instruments such as the tenora (Catalan tenor), flabiol (a fipple flute) and a tamboril (small drum), although other instruments are often accepted – trumpet, trombone, bugle and double bass.
Muñeira: The dance typical of Galicia. It is said that the dance was born in the 16th century and evolved from those dances that were accompanied by gaitas and even conchas (conch-like castañuelas). Farm and agricultural workers that took the grain to the mills (muiños in the Gallego language) would dance to pass the time whilst the grain was milled into flour.
Chotis: They say that this dance was born in Austria, yet it is a typical dance in Madrid. To the sound of an organillo (type of barrel organ) the woman would dance, turning against the man. Although it appears simple enough, according to tradition the man should never move off of his spot.
Aurresku: This is the most well-known of the Basque country’s dances given that it is danced at all social and public events. It used to be an exclusively male dance, although this tendency has now changed. During the aurresku, focus is on just one dancer, or at the very most, a pair, in which they display their agility whilst moving to the sounds of the txistu (a 3-holed fipple flute) and tamboril (Basque tabor).
Isa: The dance of the Canary Islands could be an evolution of the dances brought to the islands by the Castilian conquerors during the 13th century. In fact, may see many similarities between the isa and the jota, although the singing of the isa is more subdued and quiet than that of the jota and given the islands isolation from the rest of the Spanish peninsula, the dance has developed its own movements.
Flamenco: Last but not least is the most well known of Spanish dances, originating from Andalusia, yet with mysterious origins. There are a number of theories affirming that it is an imitation of flamingo birds (flamenco also means flamingo in Spanish) and others that say the dance was brought from Flanders in the 16th century. There are also those who say that the origin is from the landless peasants who, following the conquest of Andalusia by the Christians, were forced into nomadic communities of gypsies.These are some of Spain’s typical dances, but in no measure are they the only ones. If you keep looking further you will discover a myriad of treasures in Spain’s musical heritage.
Although Seville for many is a city in a perpetual party state, its streets are no exception, especially during Semana Santa or Holy Week from the Friday of Sorrows (Friday before Palm Sunday) through to Easter Sunday.
During this period various brotherhoods linked to Christ or a specific virgin (each virgin having its own parade day), re-enact the walk of Jesus with the crucifix with representations of Christ or the virgin. The devoted help the son of God taking the role of penitents or “Nazarenes” (with striking clothing), or carrying a heavy structure on which Christ lies. The latter are guided by one who indicates the path to follow as those carrying the structure are unable to see anything else. The brotherhoods also play instruments (usually drums and bugles/horns) in the walk.
Throughout the walk or procession, the streets maintain a solemn silence. The only sounds that can be heard are the steps of those carrying the structures and the instruments of the brotherhoods. Every now and again from a balcony a devotee may be heard reciting a religious verse about Christ’s suffering and death.
The history of Easter week in Seville goes back to the 17th century, although the brotherhoods date to the Middle Ages. It was in 1604 when the Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara established a series of norms for the fraternities, forcing them to do stay for a season, repenting at Seville’s cathedral (and those from the Triana neighborhood doing so at the Santa Ana church) and wearing simple tunics of cloth.More than 400 years have since passed and the passion for the week has not waned. For many it is a festival without which Seville could not be contemplated.
You could say that this famous person truly is a living legend as Miguel Induráin for many is the best Spanish cyclist the country has ever seen.
“Miguelón” (Big Mig) as he is often called, was born in 1964 and began pedaling in his home province of Navarre. At the age of 11 he won his first race, unfortunately though he has no trophy as the first prize award was a sandwich and drink!
Cycling was a hobby until 1984 when he won the Spanish Amateur Championships. The following year as a pro he took part in his first Tour de France, but due to illness he was forced to withdraw from the competition.
In 1989 he showed how far he could get, being the first and only Spaniard to win the Paris Nice Classic and the Critérium International. Everything indicated that the 1990 Tour would be his, but he abandoned a break-away in order to wait for his team captain, Pedro Delgado.
The glory he had been waiting for arrived in 1991 when he finally surmounted the Tour. The following year he was victorious in France and for the first time, won the Tour of Italy. In 1993 he won the Tour again despite riding various stages with a fever of 40 degrees. He also repeated his win in Italy. 1994 and 1995 saw him win the challenge in France and practically catapulted him into legendary status for his 5 victories.
He tried to win a sixth in 1996 but fatigue won and gave over to rumors of his retirement which were confirmed the following year.
Speaking about him is speaking of a legend, but he is not only loved for this, but also for his quiet and affable personality, making this sportsman truly worthy of recognition.
There is nothing simpler yet as substantial as a good “pisto manchego” (similar to Ratatouille), a dish which does not have a specific recipe but rather uses seasonal vegetables that are fried and mixed together.
Its origin is the La Mancha region which comprises a good part of the Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo provinces where agricultural workers would improvise meals using the vegetables and plants from their gardens.
Despite it being a fairly mundane specialty, its name is a cult one as they say that the name pisto comes from the Latin world “pistus”, meaning crushed or pulped. The recipe’s origin is pretty old too - in the 17th century there was a similar dish cooked using poultry stock. Pisto was enriched with distinct spices and flavors that arrived from the Americas (such as tomato and pepper) which explain the variations and changes now seen in the current dish.The variety of natural produce which is practically improvised in its mix can also be seen in the Spanish language. The world pisto is synonymous of a confusing mixture in both written form and speech. So, if at any time you hear your lesson being referred to as a pisto by your teacher, it has nothing to do with asking for a plate of it for lunch!
“Ir por lana y salir trasquilado”. To go for the wool and come back shawn. Just suppose that one day a shepherd went to collect the wool from his sheep, but due to an accident or a strange circumstance he cannot get the wool and on top of that it is he that finishes up without any hair. Would he not feel humiliated?
That is the meaning of this phrase – to lose in a situation where you thought you would come out on top or with something of benefit but instead of benefiting, finish up embarrassed.
The situation is reinforced through the use of the verb “trasquilar” meaning to shear the hair or wool of animals. If you’ve ever seen for yourself how this is done and the poor sheep are manhandled and put into ridiculous positions, then you will understand.As you have already seen, many activities relating to country life have resulted in popular expressions
By “semantic field” we are referring to a group of words that share several meanings. Here are a few examples of terms that belong to the semantic field of sounds:
- Crujido [Creak/Rustle/Crunch]: A sound created by bodies brushing or breaking against each other.
- Eco [Echo]: A repetition of a sound as it reflects against a solid body.
- Música [Music]: A succession of sounds which have been modulated to please the ear.
- Ruido [Noise]: An inarticulate, generally unpleasant sound.
- Rumor [Murmur]: A vague, muffled and prolonged sound.
- Silbido [Whistle]: A high-pitched sound that occurs as air is energetically blown through the mouth.
- Son: A word unique to Spanish that defines the quality that makes a sound particularly pleasant to the ear turning it into art.
- Soniquete [Droning]: A son that’s hardly perceived.
- Susurro [Whistle]: A soft sound created by speaking softly.
- Tañido [Strum or ring]: A sound created by playing a percussion or string instrument, particularly a bell.
- Voz [Voice]: A sound created by air which is expelled by the lungs and released through the larynx, making the vocal chords vibrate.
“Ignominioso”. Sometimes looking for the meaning of a word is not unlike the joke / game where you open a box only to find another box, inside which is smaller box and so on and so on until in the last box you find a prize.
This word is an example of this. If we look up the word “ignominioso” in the dictionary it is defined as something like “that which originates or causes ignominy”. Which in Spanish is something called “ignominia”. Er, ok. Feeling a bit confused we can look up “ignominia” which, as it turns out, means “public affront or shame”. “Afronta”. All right, we might be cross-eyed, but we can still look it up: “An action or remark that causes outrage or offence”. So now everything makes sense. If we tie all the dots, we can safely state that “ignominioso” is something that “causes shame or offence”.
The result was well worth the effort. Some people might find it ignominious that people don’t know the meaning of “ignominioso”.