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Historical Perspectives on Andalusian Music
Elena M. Villa
About the author: Elena M. Villa is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon, where she teaches comparative literature. She has studied Middle Eastern dance since childhood, and Flamenco since 1990. She teaches classes in both dance forms, has been a troupe director, and performs frequently in shows with Americanistan, the Middle Eastern Dance Guild of Eugene and elsewhere.

Elena Villa

This article was originally published in Harrakat, the newsletter of the Middle Eastern Dance Guild of Eugene, in November 2003. All rights reserved.

I was recently asked by Matt Haverly, a friend and member of the Eugene-based ensemble Americanistan, to write an article on the historical significance of the Andalusian pieces I've had the pleasure of performing with the band. Like many of us, he has an interest in the historical roots of the music he performs. There are four pieces in particular that I have worked on with Americanistan that date from the fifteenth century or earlier. "Dame la mano" (Give me your hand), "El mi querido" (My Beloved), "Lama Bada Yatathana" (sometimes transcribed as "Lama Bada Ytethena" and translated often as "When the Lissome Girl Appeared" or "When She Starts to Sway"), and "La Rosa Enflorese" (The Rose Blooms). "Dame la mano," "El mi querido," and "La rosa enflorese" are Sephardic and date from the fifteenth century, and "Lama Bada" is Arab-Andalusian. I perform an interpretive fusion dance to "Dame la mano," and "El mi querido," and I sing the other two pieces in Spanish (with an Arabic refrain on "Lama Bada"). "Lama Bada" is well known to many fans and performers of Middle Eastern music and dance...

Flamenco: An Art Without Borders
by Elena M. Villa
This article was originally published in Harrakat, the newsletter of the Middle Eastern Dance Guild of Eugene in August 2002. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Flamenco initially developed in the south of Spain in the region known as Andalusia. Various cities in Andalusia are known for particular dances and songs within the flamenco repertoire. For example, the port city of Cadiz is famous for its alergrias, a twelve-count dance that is characterized by an expressive grace and elegant bearing coupled with rhythmical footwork (alegrias literally means gaiety, rejoicing, festivities). Flamenco is primarily associated with the Gypsies or Gitanos who are believed to have migrated from northern India somewhere around the 10th century C.E., arriving in Europe by the 1400s. Flamenco is said to be a composite of many different influences including Indian, Arab (Moorish), Celtic, South American, Caribbean, and Sephardic (Spanish Jews), not to mentio Andalusian and Castillian folk dances and court dances that were agitanados or "gypsified." Flamenco scholars and aficionados of course hotly dispute the degrees of influence of these various elements...

My Visit to Cyprus, May 2003
by Elena M. Villa
This article was originally published in Harrakat, the newsletter of the Middle Eastern Dance Guild of Eugene, in August 2003. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 
My recent excursion to the island republic of Cyprus in the Mediterranean this past May was very pleasant and educational. The conference I attended--The Languages of Gender--at the University of Cyprus in the capital city of Nicosia was an incredible learning experience. I was able to hear papers by progressive and feminist scholars from around the world on topics that are very important to me, and I felt honored to share my own work in an environment that I found to be both warm and supportive. I'm very excited to say that the conference organizers are in negotiations with a European feminist press that plans to publish all our papers in a volume with the same title as the conference. The highlight of the conference, though,...

Reading Up on Orientalism
Elena M. Villa
This article was written in the Fall of 2002 for Harrakat, newsletter of the Middle Eastern Dance Guild of Eugene. It was never published. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
As the rainy months draw near, bringing the prospect of afternoons and evenings spent indoors with a hot cup of tea, many of you may be thinking about compiling your winter reading list. Although there is nothing like a good novel, you may want to investigate some of the critical works listed below since they pertain to areas that are of interest to all of us: North Africa and the Middle East. Not only do these books have a great deal of relevance in light of our current geopolitical climate, they also provide historical background on Western perceptions and representations of the cultures and countries where the dance form that we all admire, study and perform was born...