John Singer Sargent and Flamenco
John Singer Sargent painted Study for "The Spanish Dancer" during the Golden Age of Flamenco (1860-1915), when the improvisational style of dancing became a popular theatrical spectacle. Flamenco is generally performed by a solo dancer to the accompaniment of a guitarist, singer, and palmero, who provides percussion with handclaps.
Though today flamenco is associated today with a loud, rhythmic stamping of the heels, when Sargent saw flamenco performed in the late 19th century, it would have been only the male dancers who stamped their feet. Female dancers, such as the one shown here, only brushed their feet across the dance floor; their performance relied instead on the movements of their upper body and emphatic gestures to create drama.
Heather MacDonald, DMA Label copy (1974.1.FA) from All the World's a Stage: Celebrating Performance in the Visual Arts, September 2009.