Well maybe not olé, but rhythmic movement to the strums and hums of eight guitarras. The Fandango! No, it is not Fandango.com and I’m not offering any movie tickets, but it is a dance…a dance originating 400 years ago from Veracruz and a dance that still exists today in the halls and houses of those who dare to participate in its embrace.
I was on my sailboat and I have had a book in there for some time. It made the cut for selected books in the small space when I moved from a house, for it was a classic for sailors: Two Years Before The Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
It’s the story of a young sailor in the 1830’s. A young sailor who was previously a student at Harvard but left on a sea voyage due to his “tiredness of the tedium of a slow convalescence.”
It is wonderful to read a book written by Dana during the adventurous age of sail. Stories of Old California in all its natural wild and wonder, of wild horses riding around, beautiful blue ocean and the fandango. Wait…Did you say the fandango?
Yes…I did. While these young sailors spent the better part of a couple of years in their brig named “The Pilgrim,” collecting hides from the coast to bring back to Boston for trade; they also had, upon occasion, “liberty days,” to go to shore and explore a bit on land and in the local pueblos of San Juan Capistrano or Santa Barbara amongst other California coastal towns.
Well, the local agent for the ship’s trading company was getting married. He was getting married to the lovely Donna Anneta, and they were having the wedding and gathering in town. With weddings during these days, it was “on these occasions no invitations are given, but everyone is expected to come, though there is always a private entertainment within the house for particular friends.” The father of the brides home was one of the established in town and it had a courtyard that could easily host a few hundred guests. This would be a good party needless to say.
When the bride came out of the church with the bridegroom, the flags from the ship that were seen in the distance were raised and the sailors fired a 23 shot salute in succession. Her flags lay up all day in their beautiful colors honoring the wedding celebration and when the sun came down, 23 shots were fired, her flags were lowered and the sailor boys got ready uniform to come ashore for the fiesta and fandango.
With all the guitars and violins, the music played. Hundreds of people were at the gathering, and the fandango was danced. There were some great dancers such as Don Juan Bandini, “who dressed in white pantaloons neatly made, a short jacket of dark silk, gaily figured, white stockings and thin morocco slippers. An occasional touch of the toe to the ground, seemed all that was necessary to give him a long interval of motion in the air.” The ladies loved Don Bandini, and he led a wonderfully dance with the brides sister to which everyone loudly applauded.
It was beautiful. There was love in the air, young men were looking at young ladies and the young señoritas were smiling and enjoying the festivities. There were all sorts of ways the young and single courted about. Techniques such as placing your sombrero on a lady while she wasn’t looking was a male technique. She would have to wear the hat and guess who the culprit was. If she found out who he was and was accepting of the suitor so far, she would wear the señors hat. But if she wasn’t particularly attracted to him, there was a point during the song where the ladies could all toss their hats if they pleased. This action was usually followed by lots of laughter amongst the ladies. There was also talk about ladies crushing eggs on the men as a way to let them know they liked them…Ahhh, the good old days!
Two days later, I find myself at a Fandango dance unexpectedly. It happened to be going on at a launch party I was attending for a new blog called the Globalist in Seattle. It’s focused on covering stories that are international in their scope drawing from Seattle’s diversity. While attending, the Seattle Fandango Project had come to offer their music and teach the dance. And as I sat next to my fellow Israeli couchsurfer friend while enjoying a bit of hummus and a dolma, I got up and walked over to participate, because when there are opportunities to dance, I rarely pass them up. And while I may not have had my Moroccan slips and silk robes on, I did have my Indonesian Batik and silk cowboys scarf, so Don Juan Saleme was ready to prance.
As I learned and enjoyed moving my feet to the steps and stomps, I took periodic sips from the drink in my hand, listened to the strumming of 10 something guitars and watched some great fandango from the lovely mujeres of the dance.
Learning of this historic dance and dancing it in two days makes me love the variety and surprises of life. It became a theme for last week and I may have to go fandango’n again..
Ahhh…It was a nice surprise. Now I shall sign off for some sipping on my yerba mate. Thanks for reading~and keep dancing the fandango of la vida. 🙂 Ciao~