After we wrote about the meaning of the murmers and shouts of Olé we heard at a stunning Estrella Morente concert, reader Hannah alerted us to Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk ,”Your Elusive Creative Genius”, in which she speaks about the origins of Olé, and why the “Olé’s” we heard sounded like “Alé”. We excerpted a clip from the longer talk, with a quote, below. Beautiful:
…centuries ago in the deserts of North Africa, people used to gather for these moonlight dances of sacred dance and music that would go on for hours and hours, until dawn. And they were always magnificent, because the dancers were professionals and they were terrific, right? But every once in a while, very rarely, something would happen, and one of these performers would actually become transcendent. And I know you know what I’m talking about, because I know you’ve all seen, at some point in your life, a performance like this. It was like time would stop, and the dancer would sort of step through some kind of portal and he wasn’t doing anything different than he had ever done, 1,000 nights before, but everything would align. And all of a sudden, he would no longer appear to be merely human. He would be lit from within, and lit from below and all lit up on fire with divinity.
And when this happened, back then, people knew it for what it was, you know, they called it by its name. They would put their hands together and they would start to chant, “Allah, Allah, Allah, God, God, God.” That’s God, you know. Curious historical footnote — when the Moors invaded southern Spain, they took this custom with them and the pronunciation changed over the centuries from “Allah, Allah, Allah,” to “Olé, olé, olé,” which you still hear in bullfights and in flamenco dances. In Spain, when a performer has done something impossible and magic, “Allah, olé, olé, Allah, magnificent, bravo,” incomprehensible, there it is — a glimpse of God. —Elizabeth Gilbert
A few days after we saw Morente perform, we went to see the mind-blowing Israel Galván, who deconstructs and reimagines classic Flamenco through a Modernist lens. Although Flamenco purists decry what they see as desecration of a pure art-form, viewers around the world are shouting Olé.
Top photo: Isreal Galvan by Esteban Perez Albion