Gypsy Flamenco: A Way of Life

By Dennis J. Freeman

Maria Bermudez left her home in East Los Angeles 17 years ago to immerse herself in the culture and ways of the Gypsy people. Her fascination for better understanding of this people and its culture was brought on a child when she watched her older brother Alfonso drip himself in flamenco dancing and made it a routine phenomenon around the young woman.

Bermudez, delighting international audiences with her stunning stage and dance performance show, “Sonidos Gitanos and Chicana Gypsy Project,” visualized her brother becoming a world-renowned flamenco performer. It didn’t happen.

Unfortunately, Bermudez, a renowned performer in her own right, never got a chance to see that dream transpire into reality.  She was just a teenager when Alfonso passed away at the young age of 29. His memory is what drives her today, Bermudez said in a recent phone interview from Spain.

“My brother was so passionate about what he was doing, even in his premature passing, I think a lot of us believe that his spirit came into me and he wanted to continue,” Bermudez said. “He took to flamenco as a child. He always brought it home. I was always around, observing…I was brought up with it.”    

Bermudez has taken what she learned from Alfonso and made herself a star in the world of Gypsy flamenco performing, traveling all over the world to bring this splice of life to audiences. But to get where she’s at today, it took a lot more than watching her brother dance.

There was a hug in her heart that told her she couldn’t get what she needed here in the United States. Intrigued to learn more about this flamenco dancing and the culture in which it is strongly embedded, Bermudez left home to go to Spain. 

What she found out was she was an outsider trying to look into the realm of another culture. Gypsy dancing or flamenco dancing was born out of a struggle of a people; a people who have had to deal with oppression, ridicule, taunting and large stereotypes as a race.

 Bermudez took to the lifestyle, embraced it and celebrate the Gypsy culture through her worldwide performances. It is no longer a rhythm dance, nor is it about a sexy guitar riff to Bermudez. It’s cultural. It’s the way of a people, she said.  

“I came all the way to the source. I came to the birthplace of flamenco,” Bermudez said. I just ate, drank, slept everything flamenco. Here, flamenco is literally in the streets. It’s in the supermarkets. It’s in the flea markets. It’s in the home where all the women are cooking their food. The children are practically dancing out of their wombs. It’s everywhere.”

The show Bermudez and her flamenco dancing troupe will be performs is a blending of Gypsy flamenco music and dance with American jazz, Mexican rancheras, and original compositions. 

Bermudez said there is a hunger for flamenco dancing beyond the borders of Spain.

“What’s happening with flamenco as an art form in itself, it is such a phenomenon,” said Bermudez. “It has its evolution.”

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