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'Part of our heritage': Flamenco dancer applauds new legal protection for craft

Flamenco dancer Belen Lopez performs at the "Corral de la Moreria" "tablao," or live flamenco venue, during International Flamenco day in Madrid, Spain.
Flamenco dancer Belen Lopez performs at the "Corral de la Moreria" "tablao," or live flamenco venue, during International Flamenco day in Madrid, Spain. Copyright AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Copyright AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
By Graham Keeley
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Ana Morales, a dancer who also represents the Flamenco Association, said anything that provided legal protection for this part of the nation’s cultural heritage was welcome.

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Spain has passed its first 'flamenco law' to preserve its iconic music which was hard-hit during the pandemic.

Characterised by passionate dancing, singing and guitar playing, the art form has gained popularity throughout the world.

Ana Morales, a dancer who also represents the Flamenco Association, said anything that provided legal protection for this part of the nation’s cultural heritage was welcome.

"We all suffered during the pandemic so anything that gives institutional protection to help those who work in flamenco has to be applauded. It is part of our heritage so the idea is to protect it for the future," she told Euronews.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, scores of historical flamenco bars – known as tablaos – were forced to close, putting artists and other workers out of jobs.

The regional government of Andalusia in southern Spain, which is seen as the heartland of flamenco, passed a law on Wednesday night to "protect and safeguard" this art.

Under the new legislation, flamenco will be taught in schools across Spain’s largest region and artists will be given more legal protection just like other workers.

As the legislation was passed, it was greeted with traditional hand clapping which is typical in flamenco from star dancers Farruquito and Cristina Hoyos, and the guitarist Tomatito among others in the government chamber in Seville.

Arturo Bernal, the Andalusian regional spokesman for culture, said the region "will continue to be a cradle of flamenco" thanks to this legislation.

"The universe of flamenco is made up of clubs, associations, businessmen and artists and for you and thanks to you we have developed this law so that it becomes your framework for ensuring that flamenco continues to be the indisputable reference of Andalusian culture," he said.

The law "aims to provide flamenco with a legal framework to guarantee its protection, conservation, and the promotion of its knowledge for its use as a social good".

Lawmakers also want to make flamenco part of the intangible cultural heritage of Andalusia so it can be taught to future generations in schools.

Alvaro Barrientos/AP Photo
People gather at Plaza del Ayuntamiento square and keep save a distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during a flamenco festival, northern Spain, August 2021.Alvaro Barrientos/AP Photo

The Andalusian law was backed by 59 lawmakers from the ruling conservative People’s Party while other parties including the Socialists, the far-right Vox and regional groups Por Andalucia and Adelante Andalucía abstained.

Rafael Recio, a Socialist lawmaker, criticised the new law, saying that it did not "speak clearly nor give certainties".

"We celebrate the approval of this law but it could have gone further," he said.

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Until the pandemic, the spectacle of flamenco, which developed over centuries and was popularised by the Roma people of Andalusia, was staged in more than 100 tablaos across Spain.

After the pandemic struck, the first to close its doors was Casas Patas in Madrid, which for over 40 years had hosted star performers including Diego el Cigala, Sara Baras and Tomatito.

As the world recovered, some tablaos reopened but for others, the economic impact was too much and they closed their doors forever. Unesco listed flamenco as an item of world heritage in 2010.

However, it was only after the start of the pandemic that Spain declared the art form an item of national heritage which meant it was entitled to special government grants.

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