Dance Tidbits – Flamenco

If you have ever seen Flamenco dancing being performed, you know you are watching dancers with extreme intensity and emotional fervor.  There is an elegant almost arrogant carriage portrayed with expression of arms and rhythmic stamping of the feet.  As a spectator, just watching a single Flamenco performer or performance, you find the dancing so riveting and the dance moves so intense, you don’t want to look away even for a second, you might miss something.  The frilly dresses and costumes are rich in color and elegantly form fitting giving the additional beauty and flair to this deeply intense dance.

It takes years of practice to become a Flamenco dancer and unlike most other types of dance, young people are not considered to possess this emotional maturity needed to convey the soul and seriousness of this dance.  So it is said, that most Flamenco dancers do not hit their peak until their 30s and will continue to perform into their 50s and beyond.

Flamenco is a form of Spanish folk music and dance from the region of Andalusia in Southern Spain. Flamenco is broken down into:  singing, guitar playing, dance and handclaps.  The first mention of Flamenco was in literature in 1774.  Flamenco grew out of Andalusian and Romani music and dance styles.  Flamenco is often associated with the Romani people of Spain, generally known as Gitanos.  Although Flamenco is an old-world dance, it has become popular all over the world and is taught in many countries.  Supposedly, there are more Flamenco academies in Japan then there are in Spain!  On November 16, 2010, UNESCO declared Flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  That is quite a statement and honor.

The Spanish word flamenco can mean “flamingo” which refers to the bird.  It can also refer to the word “flame” meaning arrogant or flamboyant behavior.  The Flamenco dance itself is broken down into different categories.  El baile Flamenco is known for its emotional intensity and rhythmic stamping of the feet.  In the 20th century, Flamenco was danced informally at Gitano/Roma weddings and celebrations in Spain and was considered the most authentic form of Flamenco.  It is said that El baile Flamenco is descended from the ancient dances of the Indian Hindus.  Although Flamenco has truly developed its own unique style from the Hindu version, the eye and facial movements seem to have similar characteristics of seriousness.  The dance reached Spain as early as 500 – 250 BC, where Indian dancers were brought to entertain the royals.  One thousand years later in Spain, the Moors and gypsies brought dance and music styles from Pakistan and Persia further expanding the development of Andalusian dance.

Flamenco Puro is considered the style of performance closest to its Gitano influence.  In this form of Flamenco, the dance is always performed solo and is improvised rather than choreographed.

Classical Flamenco is the style most frequently performed by Spanish flamenco dance companies.  It is danced in a proud and upright way.  For women, the back is held in a significant back bend, which is different from the Gitano styles of Flamenco.  There is little movement in the hips and the body is held tight while the arms are long.  This type of dancing is similar to ballet.  It is a well known fact that many dancers who train in Flamenco have formal ballet training as well.

Modern Flamenco is considered a highly technical dance.  It is essential for both the male and female performers to have fast paced footwork skills done in absolute perfection.  The dance may include props such as castanets, shawls and fans.

Flamenco Nuevo is the most recent style in Flamenco.  The most visual part of this dance is the absence of the traditional costume attire of Flamenco.  Women wear plain jersey dresses while the men often dance bare-chested.  No props are used in this version of the dance either.  It is fairly common to see other dance styles choreographed into Flamenco Nuevo.

The Flamenco has entertained audiences around the world for decades.  To add variety, group dances are included as well as solo performers wearing the colorful and voluminous dresses of tradition.  The artist Shakira recently performed the Flamenco on her concert tour to huge crowds and rave reviews.

Maybe someday you will be tempted to learn Flamenco dancing yourself.  One thing is for sure, if you do master the art of Flamenco dancing, everyone will be impressed and Yes, even your dance friends will want you to dance for them and they will be in awe of you – I promise you!

Thought Of The Week:

“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes then learn how to do it later.”     –    Richard Branson

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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website