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Flamenco Dance – The Facts, The History, The Fun of Spanish Culture

Flamenco Dance - The Mystery, The History, The Fun of Spanish Culture

Flamenco Dance is all you think it can be. Dramatic, sad, passionate, heart-wrenching, and sensual. The history, even though most of it was undocumented, is one of the layers that make this dance and music so essential for the Spanish culture. Here are some flamenco facts.

Related Read: Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco Madrid

Fun Facts About Flamenco Dance

  • Flamenco history has only been documented for the past two hundred years. Anything before that isn’t certain.
  • Flamenco in its original form was only voice, a primitive cry or chant accompanied only by the rhythm which would be beaten out on any nearby wooden surface.
  • These are known as dry styles, and they are the oldest forms of song known today.
  • The Toñas is a family of songs that represent this style.
  • Flamenco is made up of four elements, Cante-Voice, Baile-Dance, Toque-Guitar, and the Jaleo performed by the audience, which roughly translated means “hell-raising”. It involves hand-clapping, foot-stomping, and shouts of encouragement.

Flamenco Dance - The Mystery, The History, The Fun of Spanish Culture - Tablao Flamenco Villa Rosa

  • The hand-clapping or Palmas is an art in itself, and although it may look easy, it is not, and the palmeros will weave intricate rhythms around the bases of the song.
  • In tablaos clapping is used in conjunction with zapateado (foot stomping).
  • The zapateado is the tap dance style of footwork.
  • It is not known when guitar sounds started being introduced as an accompanying instrument for flamenco.
  • Another important component is known as duende. It has a spiritual significance that goes beyond human understanding.
  • Duende can only be experienced in a small, intimate flamenco session where the singer is possessed by the dark tones of the song and the spirit will enter the mind and soul of anyone who opens up to it.
  • “Duende a strange presence that everybody senses but no philosopher can explain,” or, “All that has dark sounds has duende.”
  • Many believe flamenco to be the invention of the gypsies, but they are not its sole creators.
  • Flamenco songs can be broken down into two categories- Cante gitano, gypsy songs, and Cante andaluz, Andalucian songs.
  • When the gypsies arrived in Andalucia from India around 1425, they brought with them many songs and dance styles. At this time Andalucía was still under Arab rule.
  • The moors were forced to convert to Christianity, and failure to do so resulted in expulsion from Spain, the Jews suffered a similar fate, and the gypsies were subjected to atrocities in an attempt to exterminate them.
  • That resulted in bands of gypsies, moors, and Jews taking refuge in mountainous areas.
  • These different cultures lived in relative harmony for many years, and the fusion of their music and dances are what we know today as flamenco.
  • At first, this music was not considered worthy of attention, and flamenco was only performed in the homes and private get-togethers of the gypsies.
  • Of the first documented singers are Tio Luis, El Planeta, and El Fillo, who were the ones who laid the foundations for the future of flamenco.
  • Soon flamenco clubs called Café Cantantes began to spring up in most of the main cities.
  • The café Cantante period, 1850-1910, was known as the “Golden age”.
  • Flamenco troupes were created, and the dance became choreographed, and a new aspect of flamenco appeared for the first time, the birth of solo flamenco guitarist.
  • During this time singers and dancers of the purer styles of flamenco were no longer in demand.
  • A few of the café cantantes survived into the 1920s, but by then flamenco had been far removed from its original structure.
  • In 1922, the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and the composer Manuel de Falla, decided to hold a competition, to reinstate cante jondo style which had been pushed into near extinction by the “New Flamenco.”
  • Singers from all over Andalucia were invited.
  • During the 1930s and 40s flamenco was almost forgotten due to the civil war and second world war which continued until 1945.
  • The arrival of the 1950s saw a renewed interest in flamenco.
  • In 1957 happened the first flamenco festival in Utrera, and soon most small towns and villages followed.
  • Between the 50’s and the 70’s flamenco found its second golden age.
  • Francisco Sánchez Gómez is one of the biggest and most influential guitarists in Spanish history. He was known artistically as Paco de Lucia.
  • Cameron de la Isla was the most imitated cantaor in flamenco history, hoards of young singers looked to him as a god. He died in 1992.
  • During the nineties, flamenco fusion became popular with artists like the Gypsy Kings, Remedios Amaya, and Ketama.

My family and I learned about most of these during our visit to Granada.

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Flamenco Dance - The Mystery, The History, The Fun of Spanish Culture

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