THE temples of flamenco, the sacred tablaos, find themselves on the path to extinction as one by one they are closing their doors for good.

The harsh COVID-19 reality has become flamenco’s modern-day agony as the cavern-like rooms, which once welcomed spectators from all over the world to witness the true art form of ‘puro flamenco’ with its resounding ‘taconeo,’ have been hauntingly silenced by the virus.

The intimate set-up, with a stage nestled between the tables and chairs of the spectators, has meant that most tablaos have been unable to reopen due to the everlasting pandemic lockdown restrictions.

In fact, according to Juan Manuel del Rey, president of the national association of tablaos, since the pandemic began, 34 of the national association’s 93 tablaos have closed their doors permanently.

Male Flamenco Dancer
Male Flamenco Dancer performing in a typical Tablao pre COVID-19.

In a desperate plea to the government for more financial support, Rey has warned that ‘Tablaos are on the path to extinction.’

In recent years, tablaos have provided work for 95% of Spanish flamenco artists, yet now there are  ‘more employees and artists than spectators,’ he said.

The Spanish government donated more than €2 million in support of the flamenco sector during the pandemic. A donation that was considered by the Ministry of Culture as an ‘extraordinary effort.’

However, seeing the recent wave of tablaos and flamenco shows closed, it seems that the ‘extraordinary effort’ was in fact too little, too late.

Tablaos, have acted like a springboard for generations of Spanish flamenco artists to launch their professional career and without them Spain is in danger of losing ‘the university of our flamenco,’ said Rosana de Aza, a flamenco show producer from Sevilla.

The disappearance of tablaos across the country comes as double blow, at a time when flamenco stages should have vibrated with the ‘taconeo,’ of bailaores celebrating the tenth anniversary since the national art form was designated World Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, they have fallen eerily silent.

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