Experience 500 years of tradition through Flamenco: Spirit of Seville
Since the 16th century, people have been drawn to Seville in Southern Spain every Easter week.
Processions of the Virgin Mary crisscross the streets at all hours, orange blossoms perfume the air, and delicious tapas and wine are savored in street-side cafes as flamenco dancers dazzle the thousands of visitors that swell this ancient city.
Gustavo Sagastume, former vice president of PBS and owner of International Media, spent time in Seville at Teatro Flamenco Theatre, recording some of the world’s most vibrant and acclaimed flamenco dancers in the city where Flamenco was born over 500 years ago.
He found his way to Seville at the recommendation of a friend. The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic led Sagastume to do some self-searching and the city had exactly what he needed to pick up his spirits.
“What I found was hundreds of thousands of people coming together in the city, literally stopping in its tracks,” he said. “ I mean, no business was conducted other than eating and enjoying your family, your friends, music events … the most amazing thing was that it was such a wonderful human environment.”
Sagastume dove into the culture and wanted to find out what about flamenco brings people together in such a connected way.
He felt inspired to record some performances to help others understand the art form.
“What amazed me about flamenco is just how much they are able to take so many different modalities to really connect with us in a visceral way … just pure expression. It's just amazing,” Sagastume said.
In the documentary, Flamenco: Spirit of Seville, scenes of ordinary life are woven around close-up clips of flamenco dancers and musicians. You can see a family getting ready for a procession and shopping for fiesta dresses alongside a close-up of a performance where you can feel the sweat dripping down the performers.
The documentary contains no editorial comments of any kind. It’s just citizens of Seville talking about the history and culture of the town, flamenco, and their passions alongside shots of performers letting the music and dance speak for themselves.
Sagastume said the real core of flamenco and Easter Week in Seville is community and community building.
“The real strength of this is that communities come together from the time that the kids are young or whatever,” he said. “It's a part of the yearly calendar … and so it becomes a real coming together of people around something that their parents and their grandparents and their parents before that did.”
Sagastume believes we need to recover our humanity and stay in touch with it following the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown, and he hopes flamenco can be the path to that reconnection for many.
“I think that flamenco, the music, the art form, the celebration reminds us that that we are much more alike … and that it's those things that make us human, that makes us a team, that makes us a species of people,” he said.
Flamenco: Spirit of Seville - a one-hour public television pledge special. It airs on Nov. 27 at 8pm on WLRN-TV.