Let's Talk Jota

Since my last post I have conducted 2 more interviews Рhooray! These interviews were with the teacher of the Jota class, and a 21 year old girl who dances the Jota. They were both really helpful and now I have a huge amount of information to analyse!

Ok so where to begin? Well, the main thing that has stuck with me from talking to people this week is that the Jota is something that is more for show (in theatres, festivals etc) and not just in a bar like flamenco. You can not go a bar here and see a Jota performance so for the few tourists that do come to Zaragoza it is almost impossible to see the dance, unless you are here during the Fiestas del Pilar. The Jota teacher told me that the Jota is a very complicated dance and you have to go to lessons in order to learn it whereas you can learn flamenco in a bar. It seems that flamenco is maybe more popular then as it is easier? Or more accessible? Maybe people are put off learning the Jota because you have to pay for lessons?

In my last post I explored the idea that flamenco was more famous because¬†Franco promoted and possibly favoured flamenco. According to the Jota teacher this is not entirely true, she explained that Franco loved all traditional dances from around Spain and actually promoted the Jota a lot. It was because of this that after Franco’s death people avoided the Jota because they associated it with Franco. The same could be said of flamenco, but flamenco had already spread across the country and around the world so it had already become too much of an integral part of Andalusian Spanish culture.

She also said that she was one of the people to fight for the Jota to be recognised as Bien de Interés Cultural. A group of Jota enthusiasts went to the local government and had to put their case forward in front of a court! She explained to me that another reason flamenco is more famous than the Jota is because the Andalusian government helps the flamenco groups a lot i.e. gives them money whereas in Aragón all of the Jota performances and events are paid for by the Jota enthusiasts like herself. All the equipment, venue hire etc. all comes out of her own pocket!

It seems that the Jota is less famous for a few reasons all of which are just luck, or down to geography or timing perhaps? The teacher said “we have perhaps just been unlucky that we haven’t won the commercial battle whereas flamenco has” – flamenco has had a lot of publicity and support and so is much more well known, but she went on to say that at international dance events it is always the Jota Aragonesa or Russian dances which are the grande finale of the show. She said that the Jota is much more exciting than flamenco, that it is much more interesting to watch and has lots of jumps and complicated steps and so is always saved until last at these events and everyone loves it.

It seems that they are pushing for the Jota to be more well known around the world and perhaps in order for it to be more popular they need to modernize it. The teacher told me that they often dance the Jota to more modern music or combine the Jota with other types of dances such as breakdance and funky in order to appeal to the younger generation. The young girl that I interviewed also told me this and said that our generation often think the Jota is a bit ridiculous and old fashioned. She, personally, loves it and wishes people didn’t see it like that but they are trying to create new dances or dance the original ones to more modern music to appeal to younger people.

She also said that usually the people who dance the Jota are people who know others who have a connection with the dance. It seems as though there is a community of Jota dancers within Arag√≥n and it is popular among them but for some other¬†people in the region it is something completely bizarre and outdated. Something interesting she said to me about the Jota was “young people need to dance it so that older people can watch it”. It is obvious that the audience for Jota performances is always the older generation, this is because when they were young the music and dance of their childhood was the Jota, so this is what they grew up with. Nowadays other music genres are more popular but the Jota still carries on being danced for the older generation. But, with the fusion with modern music they are obviously trying to make it appeal to younger people too and carry on the tradition.

All the people I have spoken to so far have all said that they don’t think the Jota will die out. They said there will always be people carrying it on, whether they dance the older dances or create their own choreography and evolve the dance. Maybe in the next few years we will see more of the Jota Aragonesa!

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