Ready for Feria 2019?

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The Feria and flamenco go hand in hand - or so it seems - as this Seville celebration is captured in images of flamencas in brightly coloured dresses dancing Sevillanas. But how much flamenco can you actually see at the Feria in Seville?

Perhaps in the beginning you wouldn’t have seen much at all. With similar origins to our agriculture shows, the first Seville Feria was held in 1847 with the primary purpose of providing a place to sell and buy cattle. The festival has been held annually ever since, with the exception of the civil war years.

The ‘Feria de Abril de Sevilla’ will be held in May this year rather than April, strictly two weeks after Semana Santa (Seville’s Holy Week and Easter Celebrations). Running from the 4th to the 11th of May 2019, this week-long affair is recognised as a major event in the Seville social calendar. It is now honoured with the government awarded title of ‘Fiesta of International Tourist Interest of Spain’.

Seville’s spring-time Feria has gradually lost its agricultural side, with the exception of its horse shows and bull fights, and has evolved into a week-long party. The showgrounds themselves are transformed into a mini-city of more than 1,000 tents where guests can eat, drink and dance. Although there are some tents open to the public, the majority are privately held and attended by friends and family of the host.

Tent owners - an exclusive and expensive right for Seville’s citizens - may host professional flamenco dancers during the week, or may pay a flamenco guitarist and singer to provide music for their guests. But recorded music is just as common and will be chosen according to the tent owner’s tastes, so you may hear anything from flamenco to reggaeton.

Each year the gateway - an elaborate archway lighting the entrance to the showgrounds - is modelled differently to celebrate a different Seville landmark. This year that honour goes to what was the Seville Pavilion in the city’s 1929 Expo. The gateway to the showgrounds will be lit up for the first time at midnight celebrating the opening of the Feria. Traditionally this first day is celebrated by tent owners and their families with a special dinner of friend fish, accompanied by a plentiful supply of ‘rebujito’, a mixture of dry sherry and lemonade. And then they dance…

This brings us to that iconic dance of Southern Spain - Las Sevillanas. The folk dance that bears the city’s name is often the first exposure to flamenco for many students outside Spain. Although some wouldn’t consider Sevillanas to be flamenco, it shares similar cultural roots and some common influences. Sevillanas is folk music sung in four verses, usually danced in pairs. There are many styles and lyrics providing endless opportunities for dancing the night away, every day of the week during Feria.

So much Sevillanas? Indeed. This folkloric dance is so loved by locals, that the Andalusian television channel ‘Canal Sur’ is in its third series of a show entirely devoted to singing Sevillanas called ‘Yo soy del sur’ or ‘I’m from the South’. You can see videos from the the various seasons on the show’s website.

After a week of partying you might think that Seville would be ready to get back to normality. But if you haven’t had your fill, don’t worry! Nearby Jerez celebrates its Feria immediately after Seville from the 11th to the 18th of May this year. And you can find plenty of Sevillanas and perhaps some bulerías there too.