OVIEDO, Fla. – Tammy Weber De Millar is the director of Flamenco del Sol dance studio in Oviedo, Florida. Although her genetic makeup is Polish, her heart and soul overflows with Spanish culture.
As a budding Spanish and political science major, it was a study abroad trip with UCF where everything clicked for Tammy.
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“I was very young and impressionable. And it was such an amazing trip. But somehow I never knew what Flamenco was until I saw it in real life in Barrio de Santa Cruz (in) Seville, Spain. And it was just a complete collision course with destiny for me, I knew that was all I wanted to do,” Tammy explained.
Beyond teaching flamenco, Tammy has dedicated her life to Spanish culture, by teaching the language to all ages, even acting as a publisher in conceptualizing and developing world language material for K-16 levels.
With Tammy’s extensive background in flamenco and Spanish culture, she was the perfect person to explain the art and history behind the beautiful art form.
Where did flamenco originate?
“Flamenco is a culture from Spain, lives in Spain and is nurtured in Spain. But it is also living and nurtured in many other places in the world. But the piece that most people don’t realize is that the origins of flamenco actually came from India,” Tammy said.
It originated with a group of people that migrated out of India, passing through Europe, the Middle East and Africa before finally ending up in southern Spain. During this time, the Spanish Inquisition moved flamenco underground, and that is when it truly flourished and became what it is today.
In 2010, flamenco was designated a World Heritage protected art form by UNESCO, because of its deep roots in culture and humanity.
What is flamenco?
Many people see flamenco, as a passionate dance between a man and woman, with the vibrant dress and castanets. But surprisingly, it began as storytelling through song. Here’s an example.
“So it started as a singing art form, (and) eventually became a dancing and guitar art form because the Gypsy group saw that they could also make money doing this. So that very tight circle of just talking and singing about what happened today and someone clapping their hands, opened up into an arc that became this inclusive art form where the audience is drawn in,” said Tammy, tapping a beat on the desk.
What makes flamenco a protected art form?
“Flamenco has over 50 flamenco rhythms, and each one of these is intended to be used in different ways. They reflect certain geography, have different accents and lyrics. Some of them are meant for prayer, while some are only acapella. So, there is an entire world in this package that most who see flamenco for the first time are probably not aware of that richness,” Tammy continued.
Why do some dancers use castanets?
The castanets are an iconic Spanish instrument along with the guitar. But originally the castanets came from the Phoenicians. This is another piece of the art of flamenco that was borrowed from somewhere else.
“The Phoenicians would come through the Mediterranean through shipping and merchandise trading. The instrument was originally seashells, which is kind of cool because they are still shaped like seashells,” Tammy said.
At what age can you learn to dance flamenco?
“One of the really neat things about flamenco is yes, it is very physical, and it is much harder than people think it is going to be because it is kind of a life journey, and there is so much to learn. But with flamenco, there is not an end to your career when you’re 18 like there might be in other dance forms. In flamenco, there is really not. Because if you look at some of the greatest performers and dancers, they are older. But it is the detail and the nuance in the feeling that is so important to the dance. It gives the performers the ability to reach through and grab the public and relate. And that is something that does not happen necessarily until you are much older,” Tammy said.
Where can we watch flamenco in Central Florida?
Fusion Fest: November 27 & 28th: “We will have two entries. One will be performing as a flamenco group and the other as a classic Spanish dance with the castanets,” Tammy said.To view their 2020 performance, click here.
Penguin Point at the Oviedo Mall: January 28-30th: 70 students will perform a homage to Cuba, reflecting on Cuba and Spain’s relationship through flamenco and music.
“Da Fuentes y Estrellas”: Last two weeks of June 2022: Featuring Spanish and Latin American composers with classical Spanish dance.
For more information on performances or taking Flamenco classes, head over to Flamenco del Sol’s page.