A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to see a flamenco dance in Barcelona, and I was struck at the similarity in the footwork between flamenco, and Kathak, a centuries old classical dance from North India. Curious at this, I did some reading and was amazed to find the similarity was no coincidence. Read on.....
There are many striking similarities between Kathak - a dance popular in North India - and the Flamenco dance of the Spanish gitanos, most notably in the percussive footwork, and dependence on (sometimes complex) rhythmic cycles. The elements that resemble the dance of Andalusian Gypsies are the movements of arms, palms and fingers as well as tapping, typical for this kind of dance. In both styles the dance is usually performed by one person and it is closely connected to the music and rhythm. In flamenco a dancer is accompanied by a guitar, singing, clapping and a cajón, whereas in kathak apart from singing it can be tabla, pakhawaj, sitar or sarangi. In this case kathak is barefoot, and the tapping rhythm is dictated by bells hung at the dancer's ankles and by a loud "clapping" with his foot against the floor. Flamenco, however, is much more dynamic, sometimes even aggressive, or with an erotic character. In flamenco a dancer does not tell any story and his gestures do not bear any meaning: his movements and gestures express emotions or they emphasise the meaning of lyrics and character of the melody accompanying them.
We cannot say for sure that flamenco has its roots in India. However we know, that the Gypsies left India ages ago. One could wonder: had they arrived from China, would flamenco develop in the form we know today? Even if both those extremely interesting genres of music are not directly related, one can state that what is common to Indian and flamenco music is their emotionality, expression, rhythm, depth and sensitivity.
You can see for yourself the similarity between both these dance styles in this video.
And here is a video showing a wonderful fusion of the sounds of the flamenco guitar, and the sitar: