No one sunbathes here. No one sits outside a cafe and basks in the potent UV rays. The sun in Seville at this time of year feels like a laser and unlike most places in the world, people opt to walk on the shady side of the street rather than the energy-sapping sunny side. A long line of pedestrians stick close to the walls, giving any street in the city an odd asymmetrical look. Sometimes this is mitigated by a sun-starved tourist but soon they too wise up and opt for the shadows.
Seville is said to be one of the hottest, if not the hottest, place in Europe. Temperatures of 40 C plus are normal in July and August. The heat feels as if you have been wrapped in a large, damp winter coat – in a sauna. Things taste different when the weather outside is hotter than you are inside; sleep doesn’t come easy and when it does, it feels more like a snooze on a plane than deep sleep.
But the good news is that Seville does hot like Norway does cold. Instead of outdoor heat lamps, every restaurant and bar has little sprinklers which give you a light but welcome shower as you amble past. White blinds are draped aesthetically over the narrow shopping alleys in order to provide some relief from the relentless sun. Dogs are hosed down before they go out, their coats wet and sodden.
Before I came to Andalusia, I rarely bothered to check the weather forecast but just took whatever the day threw at me. Rain, snow, sun? I’d take my chances. Here, checking the weather is the second religion. Each morning, I experience a not altogether pleasant anticipation as the giant orb of the sun seems to grow bigger, glow brighter. Each evening, when the relative cool descends, I feel a sense of relief and do a silent rain dance as I prepare myself for whatever the next day has in store.
Duende. (n) the mysterious power of art to deeply move a person.
Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday had it. So did Frida Kahlo and Van Gogh.
Duende is an enigmatic Spanish word which literally means elf or spirit. But when used in relation to flamenco, it’s all about the dancer’s ability to convey strong emotion to the audience. Be it pleasure or pain.
Purists might argue that flamenco is the only art form that can transmit duende. For flamenco requires the performer to bare their soul; to dig deep into their own life experience and then expose it for the whole world to see. Inner thoughts as outer thoughts, if you like. The stuff we normally keep hidden for fear of alienating (even losing) friends/family/boss is set free.
If flamenco has perfect technique but no feeling then aficionados would consider it to have failed.
I would argue that any artistic pursuit that moves us – whether it’s art, music, film, poetry, prose, or indeed dance – should qualify for a duende rating. So Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait with her pet monkeys (she longed for children, but couldn’t have them) and Francis Bacon’s triptych of his dead lover, George Dyer, have duende in my opinion because they move me to tears.
The ability to make an emotional connection with the audience is almost as mysterious as the word duende itself. Why do some people achieve it while others fail?
What sends shivers down your spine? What has duende for you?