Spanish and flamenco: what’s the Fuss about Flamenco?

Tuesday April 27, 2021 | Spanish Culture | Posted by studyspanishinspain

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Spanish and flamenco: what’s the Fuss about Flamenco?

The changes are that you are interested in knowing more about Flamenco if you are interested in Spain and the Spanish culture. Flamenco is an essential part of Spanish culture, as eating tapas, la Sagrada Familia, the beautiful beaches and Ibiza. If you are doing a Spanish immersion course in Spain, you’ll get the opportunity to see real flamenco shows, especially in Andalucia, but also in Madrid and Barcelona. Yu can also choose for a Spanish and Flamenco program in Granada, Madrid, Malaga or Sevilla.

What’s the fuss about Flamenco? Is Flamenco just for the tourists? Or is it part of the living culture in Spain? Where can you see an excellent and passionate flamenco show? And should you go there? Please continue to read, and let us be your guide!

What is Flamenco?

Flamenco was recognized as part of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO as an art form that combines dance, song and instrumental music, mostly guitar playing.

The origins of Flamenco

Flamenco originated with the Andalusian Roma (Gypsies) of southern Spain. In Andalucia, the Roma people are called ‘gitanos’.

Though the roots of Flamenco are a bit mysterious, many experts say that the art form seems to lie in the Roma migration from Rajasthan in the northwest of India to Spain between the 9th and 14th centuries. The migrants brought various musical instruments: the tambourine, bell, wooden castanet, and many songs and dances.

Four pillars of Flamenco

Once in Spain, the migrants encountered more influences from the Sephardic Jews and the Moors, which further influenced the art form we know today as Flamenco.

There are four pillars of Flamenco: dance, singing, hand clap, guitar.

Flamenco Dancer Spain

Flamenco dance: The Baile

After the mid-19th century, flamenco was accompanied by guitar music and palo seco. Palo Seco is a dry stick that is used to beat on the floor to help keep time.

The story of flamenco

A dancer (bailaor [man], bailaora [woman]) then performed series of choreographed steps mixed with improvised styles.

The dance aspect of flamenco is never performed without accompaniment. The singer (cantador), or the narrator, tells the legends and stories of the daily life of the “outcast” subculture within white Christian Spain. The dancer, through an intense display of highly personal movements, narrates the story.

Dance movements

Movements of the dance include the arms (braceo) and upper torso, hand finger movements (florea), footwork (zapateado) and heelwork (taconeo). Men usually perform intricate footwork while the women, who wear elaborate, ruffled dresses, emphasize movements of the hands and upper torso.

Flamenco Spain

Flamenco lyrics and singing: The Cante

Baile dance
Balaor the dancer (the man)
Balaora the dancer (the woman)
Braceo the arm work in the dance
Cante singing
Cante jondo deep song (style of flamenco)
Cantador singer
Duende a word often used to denote the indescribable magical component of flamenco
Espectáculo a flamenco performance, a show
Florea hand finger movements
Gitano/a Romani or gipsy
Jaleo ‘hell-raising (clapping, stomping, shouting, etc. from the audience or flamenco performers)
Palo seco wooden staff / the style of flamenco in which the beat is marked with one
Palmero a person who claps flamenco
Tablao an establishment with flamenco shows
Taconeo heelwork
Toque guitar-playing
(Toque de) palmas hand-clapping
Zapateado tap-dancing footwork paired with las palmas

When thinking of flamenco, you may only imagine the dancing aspect. However, the song is an integral aspect of the performance.

Three categories of song

There are three categories of song, including the cante jondo, the profound or deep song, cante intermedio, the intermediate song also known as the cante flamenco and finally, cante chico or light song.

The cante jondo is based on a complex 12-beat rhythm and is the oldest form. You can tell when the singer uses cante jondo because of the deep emotion with themes about death, anguish, despair or religious doubt.

The cante intermedio incorporates elements from various Spanish music styles, such as the fandango. The cante chico has a much simpler rhythm than the other two forms and less emotional investment. Cante chico generally deals with humour, love, the countryside and joyfulness.

Typical Spanish vocabulary about Flamenco

After a 15-20 minute sequence of dancing a dancer is said to fall into a trancelike state of emotion, a duende. The rhythmic hand clapping of the audience and interjections by the audience and fellow performers enhances this state. Gitano flamenco performers think of cante jondo as a form of prayer, and in duende, the dancer communicates not only with the audience but with God. Duende is probably best compared to a ‘flow’ of concentration; it is the mysterious element of flamenco that you can also sense during a flamenco performance, and no one can really explain what it is. It’s duende!

Visit a flamenco show in Spain

If you go to a flamenco show while learning Spanish in Spain, the chances are that you will see other tourists or international students around you. This, because these world-class artists need tourism to survive because flamenco venues are not filling up with locals.

But, today, flamenco does not only exist to serve the interests of business and tourism. Spanish Artists, scholars and historians have made great efforts to study the art form and promote its historical and artistic importance to both Spain and the region of Andalusia.

This came, fortunately, after years of neglect. As explained below (read more in the section: history of flamenco), flamenco has a long and complicated history in Spain, and foreigners have embraced the art form before becoming a national symbol in Spain.

Where to see Flamenco in Spain

In Sevilla

Are you doing a Spanish course or living / visiting Seville? Sevilla is the capital of Andalucia and is probably the best place in Spain to learn more about flamenco. If you are so lucky to be there for a Spanish immersion Program in April, you can see the enormous impact flamenco has on the life of the Sevillanos at the Feria de Abril.

If that’s not the case, you can visit a flamenco show or take flamenco dance lessons throughout the year. The Spanish School in Sevilla offers dance lessons too.

Combine your Spanish language course with flamenco dance classes!

You can learn Spanish quickly and learn the technical and cultural aspects of the incredible art form flamenco in different Spanish Schools in Spanish, such as:

  • Granada
  • Madrid
  • Malaga
  • Sevilla

There is a school in sevilla that is specialized in Spanish & Flamenco lessons for foreingers. There are only a few starting dates per year. In the dance classes we teach a sequence that later will be adapted to the rhytm, the guitar and finally the ‘cante’. There is also room for improvisation. The students will learn all flamenco styles (seguirillas, soleá, soleá por bulerías and alegrías).

Flamenco Dancer

Where to see flamenco in Sevilla

Los Gallos Plaza de Santa Cruz, Sevilla
(temporarily closed due to the Corona pandemic)
This place in Sevilla has been in the elite part of flamenco thanks to the outstanding artists that make a great show of singing, dance and flamenco guitar.

La Casa del Flamenco
La Casa del Flamenco is located in the heart of the Santa Cruz neighbourhood in Sevilla. Santa Cruz is the former Jewish Quarter, a charming area full of cobbled streets, just a few blocks away from Seville’s most famous landmark La Giralda. Recommended.

Museo del Baile Flamenco in Sevilla
The Flamenco Dance Museum calls itself ‘a window into the magical world of flamenco’. Here, you can see shows and visit the museum and learn about all the facets of the art: the dance, the singing, the guitar. The museum “expands the understanding of the art and the feel of flamenco in our events, publications, exhibitions and shop”.

In Madrid

Are you doing a Spanish course or living / visiting Madrid? We recommend you visit “Tablao Corral de la Moreria, one of the world’s most famous and prestigious flamenco tablao.

In Barcelona

Will you be in Barcelona for a Spanish course in Barcelona? If you have the chance and you’re interested in seeing flamenco, we recommend you visit Tablao Flamenco Cordobes. Since its foundation in 1970, Tablao Flamenco Cordobes bets on the best artists of the time, now considered flamenco legends: Camaron de la Isla, Farruco, Manuela Carrasco, Chocolate, Juan Villar, La Tati, Manolete, Lole & Manuel or Bambino, among many others. many others

Watch flamenco on Youtube

Prepare for a Spanish immersion trip to Spain – or just watch because you love flamenco or want to get an idea what’s it all about with the following videos.

Study Spanish Spain Flamenco

Interested in a
Spanish Language & Flamenco Dance
course in Spain?

Contact us!

History of Flamenco

As stated above, Flamenco has a long and complicated history in Spain. In the beginning, the flamenco performance was considered vulgar and pornographic. Many believed that the art form was resistance to progress and modernization.

Many Spaniards considered Flamenco as a plague to their nation because the dance was associated with the ostracized Gypsy (Roma) population. And the Spanish elites hated how foreigners linked their country with Flamenco.

The golden age
The golden age of Flamenco is said to have been between 1780 and 1845, with the singing being the primary aspect of Flamenco and musical accompaniment and dancing being secondary. Flamenco changed in 1842 when Silverio Franconetti founded the first café Cantante in Sevilla. In these centres, the emphasis was placed on the musicians and the dancers. It was during this period that the singing began to take a secondary role.

From the mid-nineteenth century on, Flamenco spread from southern Spain to Madrid and other cities, which allowed Flamenco to flourish due to increased foreign tourism.

World’s Fairs
Thanks to the many World’s Fairs in the late- nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, Flamenco gained popularity, especially in Paris and European artists. Because of this growing European support outside of Spain, the cultural meaning of Flamenco was transformed for Spanish artists and intellectuals.

After the Spanish Civil War
The performance diminished significantly after the Spanish Civil War. The Catholic Church and the female wing of Spain’s Fascist Party both rejected flamenco.

Flamenco and tourism
By the 1950s, after years of international rejection, the Franco regime really needed money. Surprisingly, they decided to promote flamenco to jump-start Spain’s tourism industry. A tourism promoter named Carlos González Cuesta wrote: “We have to resign ourselves touristically to be a country of [Spanish stereotypes] because the day we lose the [Spanish stereotypes], we will have lost 90 per cent of our attraction for tourists.”

So despite years of backlash and rejection of flamenco, the Franco regime actually played to tourists’ love of flamenco. Advertisers put female flamenco dancers on airline brochures. The government opened many clubs specializing in flamenco and encouraged professional flamenco dancers to star in Hollywood films and encouraged performers to travel in international exhibitions.

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