Taking it abroad: celebrating La Feria de Abril
Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Sevilla, the city that holds a special place in my heart for being my home for six months, is currently gearing up for a huge celebration. Giant striped tents are going up, horses with wagons are brought in, and the guitarristas are setting up for the cultural phenomena La Feria de Abril.
Feria is a week-long festival held in the city of Sevilla to celebrate spring. All places of business and shops are completely closed; the city shuts down for an entire week, as every member of Sevilla migrates toward the Feria campground dressed in their finest flamenco dresses.
These are no ordinary dresses, but are full-length costumes that come in a wide array of colors and patterns with large, full skirts. In their hair, the women pin giant flowers with ornate combs and adorn earrings the size of a small plate.
Those planning to partake in the flamenco dancing wear a manton, a special shawl used in flamenco. Men are dressed in their finest suits, and everyone is celebrating for no other reason than it being a tradition to have a week of festivities.
However, this is not a general public affair. Groups of families or neighborhood communities host a tent, and if your name is not on the list you will not be permitted to enter. You have to know someone to get on the list to be apart of the celebration.
Luckily, during my time in Sevilla, my host family and my friends’ host families kept an open invite for us so we did not miss out on any of the fun. The focus of the celebration is music and dancing, with Sevillanas being the dance of choice.
Sevillanas is a folk dance native to Andalucía (southern region of Spain) and is a partner dance that has four different stanzas. Only those who study the art of Sevillanas diligently master all four stanzas.
My friends and I took classes at a local dance studio to learn Sevillanas over a period of two months, and I was luckily able to reach the level of learning all four stanzas at the advanced level (I have a strong dance background growing up, and I still dance here at UNH so this definitely helped me out).
All I wanted was to wear a flamenco dress and dance Sevillanas during La Feria with a Spaniard, and to really be immersed in the moment and in the culture. When it came time for La Feria, I had my chance, and I successfully danced all four stanzas with a Spaniard who was a friend of my intercambio. It was so much fun to be able to take part in the folk aspect of Feria, and it didn’t hurt that he was a nice, cute guy too.
The only thing I would change would be the annoying behavior of Fina, the host mother of my good friends Kerry and Kim. She kept reaching out and pulling my manton. This was just obnoxious and distracting when you are trying to remember a complicated dance while wearing a long dress that has a skirt which weighs about 30 pounds.
The week of La Feria was one of my last in Sevilla, and it was truly a time in my life I will never forget. I really let myself be part of the moment and part of the culture in every way possible.
These are the kind of events that stay with you; in the same way that the people I met while living in Sevilla will always have a special place in my heart. Sevilla has a motto, “NO8DO” which means “No me ha dejado” or “It (Sevilla) has not abandoned me.”
The motto has stuck with my friends I have kept from my time there, and I feel that I reciprocate the feeling. I will not abandon the lessons and experiences I learned from my time there.