Could the Pandemic Have a Devastating Effect on Spain’s Flamenco Traditions?

The nation's tablaos are in danger

Flamenco on display in Sevilla.
Noeliv - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

How are music venues dealing with the ongoing pandemic? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer; a jazz club with sprawling seating might have a different answer than, say, a space specializing in crowded DIY punk shows. A recent article at Pitchfork offered a look at how some venues are handling things, which is as good an overview of the issues at hand as you’re likely to find.

Writing at The New York Times, Raphael Minder explores another type of venue that’s experiencing an existential crisis as a result of COVID-19. Minder’s article takes the reader to Spain, where tablaos — spaces in which audiences sit in close company to watch flamenco — face an uncertain future as a result of the pandemic.

Minder writes that these venues “have acted as a springboard for generations of flamenco artists in Spain to launch professional careers, much in the way that many jazz musicians first came to the public’s attention in the clubs of cities like New Orleans.” The problem comes from the traditional setup, in which the stage is situated in the midst of the audience.

Much like smaller venues in the United States and abroad, the size of tablaos makes it impractical to reopen at a reduced capacity. That’s led a little over a third of the tablaos that belong to the national association to shutter as a result of the pandemic.

The result has left musicians and dancers, as well as venue owners, facing an uncertain future — both for themselves and for the art that they’ve dedicated themselves to.

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