Behind the dress: an interview with Adela Olmos

    Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchDigital or Visual Media


    Flamenco, as an art form highlights the history of the Spanish Roma community and reveals the paradox of the Andalusian region. It is a form of oral history where behaviours, gestures, poetry, dances, music, and emotions all come together to document the past of a people, as well as a region. Flamenco was born from the Spanish Roma and is closely linked to the interaction between the non-Roma and Roma. The roots of Flamenco stem from the everyday life of the Roma community as it was their truth which lent itself to the corporeal language now known as Flamenco.
     Flamenco is a Roma art form whose image has often been placed on objects and been inspiration for a number of visual art exhibitions as well dance performances. Flamenco dresses are often associated with the Flamenco dancing body and in recent years has become a focus and even an attraction. The commericalisation of Flamenco is not a new phenomenon but often the dress is seen and photographed onstage. However, the Flamenco dress is closely related to the outfits worn by Roma women in the early 1800’s. Souvenirs are vital for the tourism economy (Griggio, 2015), while selling and buying of souvenirs are routine activities at tourism destinations (Swanson & Timothy, 2012). Souvenirs reflect the commercialisation and globalisation of the art form and they serve as an artefact of the appropriation of the Roma culture and the female Flamenco body that has taken place over the years. During this period the Roma woman wore a simple dress with two or three flounces. This style and silhouette was later modified by Flamenco dancers of the period who sewed on additional flounces and changed the neckline and even added a train to the backend. Such dresses are rarely photographed without the female figure inside of them. Even less documented is how Flamenco dress designers approach the process of making the dress and their own interpretation of that process. Oftentimes the dress is seen as a part of the dancer but is an extension of a much larger picture that intertwines politics, dance and reflects the period which the items are made. 
    “Behind the Flamenco Dress: An Interview with Adela Olmos” (Cisneros, 2015) is a documentary medium-length film that shows the Flamenco culture through the words and work of Flamenco dressmaker Adela Olmos. In her little studio, Cisneros talks with the designer about what Flamenco is, its importance and relevance in today’s society and how it is embodied in the Flamenco dress. The film captures Olmos’ trajectory as a non-Spaniard working in the Spanish Flamenco world and her own process of creating and making Flamenco dresses. She delves into what its like to work in Jerez, Spain and in London, UK and looks back at her time in the field and recounts seeing the late Paco de Lucia play. The documentary was directed and edited by Cisneros and went on to win best documentary from the UK in the Eurofilm Festival 2016 Summer Edition. The film features music by the Paco de Lucia and is a moving documentary brings the colourful world of Flamenco dresses to a wider audience.
    Research Questions:  1.How do non-Roma artists enter the very closed world of Flamenco and in what way does their story shape the direction Flamenco takes?2.Does a non-Roma dress designer use or reuse the “Carmen-esque” beauty stereotype that is often associated with Flamenco?3.What process does the dress designer take to make the dress and how does that voice come through?4.Does the process of making a dress affect the outcome of the dance? 5.Are Flamenco dresses vital to dancing and can they be seen as an artefact of the art form?
    Original languageEnglish
    Media of outputFilm
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

    Bibliographical note

    Film was screened in several film festivals in Euope. Won best documentary from the UK in Eurofest 2016 film festival.


    • Dance
    • Roma
    • Flamenco
    • Costumes
    • Commercialisation


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