The city of Sevilla celebrates a week-long festival known as La Feria de Sevilla each Spring which brings out the best of flamenco culture and heritage. La feria as it is popularly known, originally started as a cattle trading fair in 1847 and evolved over time, into a unique spectacle which showcases the highlights of Andalusian culture: the dance, dress, music, people, food, horses, carriages, and not least, the bull-fighting known as corridas.
The main festivities take place on fair grounds near the Rio Guadalquivir. A rectangular plot of land– about a mile long and 700 yards wide–called Real de la Feria is transformed into a kind of Disneyland tent city, with large gathering tents set up for parties. Inside each tent, there is a bar/kitchen, tables set up for people to gather, and musicians who provide fitting soundtracks for spontaneous flourishes of Flamenco by old and young alike. Between the rows of tents, the ‘streets’ are festooned with brightly colored paper ribbons and decorations which flutter gaily as Sevilla’s residents promenade around, clap to the rhythm of musicians and congregate with each other to celebrate their society. They are dressed in their finest traditional dress. Many participate in the horse-back and horse-drawn carriage parade.
As I look around it was clear that people were inspired by being together communally and dressed to the nines. They were animated and excited to be together. Feminine power and preening was celebrated and on full display in the perfect coiffeur, bold accessories, and expertly made up faces. Just as beautiful as their clothes and accessories, people’s postures and faces revealed that they felt beautiful inside.
The Movement and Expression
Sitting with a cured ham bread and wine inside a tent brought me deep into the heart of this beautiful culture. The driven flamenco music, in turns staccato, explosive, soaring, and wrenching, provided an underlying feeling of soul and passion. The exquisite expression of this culture was in the movement of women dancing often with each other, in group formations, and with men, their faces, gestures, and expressions.
Children dressed in traditional clothes were charming as they copied the adults and learned the rituals of dance and music. One favorite was how a father encouraged his daughter to dance, displaying her feminine qualities as he stood appreciatively clapping for her. If there was a more apt representation of gender roles in this culture I didn’t find it.
The Ordinary Moment
At Feria, sometimes the ordinary is also extraordinary.