The Art of Fierceness

The Performance of the Spanish Fighting Bull
  • Garry Marvin


Since the early eighteenth century events have been staged in Spain in which professional teams of men perform with, and kill, bulls in urban spaces, originally in closed-off town squares and later in purpose-built arenas, in front of an audience: the Spanish bullfight.1 However, the term ‘bullfight’ wrongly suggests a sport in which men and bulls engage with each other in aggressive, physical, bodily combat. For the human performers and the audience the event is not a fight and it is not a sport. For them the processes of the encounters in the arena are regarded as an art, toreo — an art that has a set of aesthetics peculiar to it and to no other event. The relationship between man and bull does begin as a contest, a struggle of the assertion of different wills, powers, strengths and influences, but, ideally, this contest should become resolved into a partnership of performance expressed as an elegant fusion of the movements of the two: a performance improvised at the moment of its enactment.


Male Calf Bull Breeder Female Performer Cape Pass Human Performer 
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Copyright information

© Garry Marvin 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Garry Marvin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of RoehamptonLondonUK

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