In today’s understanding, Flamenco is the music and dance of Spain.
Over the centuries there has been a problematic history between Spanish National identity and the Flamenco art form. Where for some time the performance of Flamenco was considered vulgar in Spain. But today, it may be collectively accepted as the music and dance of Spain. It is primarily identified with elements such as the fast-stamping feet of the dancers, the fast fingers of guitarists playing melodic verses on the guitar accompanied by singers often lamenting of love and beauty in between clapping (palmas) a rhythm for the dancers to quicken the pace of their feet.
You often see dancers dance with frilled skirts, fans, shawls and even use castanets while they are dancing. One thing is for sure. While Flamenco may be the dance and music of Spain it is enjoyed by artisans all over the world with Flamenco companies and schools all over the world including Australia, Japan, Singapore, Canada and so much more.
It is an artform that speaks to so many their native language. Everyone who practices the artform, no matter where they are in the world, no matter how long they have been practicing they are all Flamencos.
How did it originate?
Well first of all it’s Flamenco, not “Flamingo” 🙂. I don’t know where the confusion comes from, but we frequently get enquiries about flamingo dance lessons.
Generally speaking, flamenco is a mixture of the music and dance of the many cultures that have influenced it through many centuries in Spain including Muslim, Jewish, Indo-Pakistani and Byzantine cultures.
You can’t really pinpoint an exact time in history but many theorists believe that the roots of Flamenco dance and music as we know it today can be traced as far back as the 15th century and other theorists believe the 8th century as waves of persecuted tribes fled west from India travelled through the Middle East and through Eastern Europe finally settling in Spain. Then, during the 16th century the Kingdom of Castilla decided to rid Spain of minority groups, namely the Jews, Muslims, nomads and the non-conforming Christians.
With little in common these persecuted cultures came together and inhabited the outskirts of Spain’s mountain ranges. Their music, song and dance mixed and from it evolved Flamenco. Or, so this is what we think.
Who can dance Flamenco?
Everyone! Literally everyone.
If you have a heart beat you can dance Flamenco. It is danced by both children and adults, of all genders. There is a saying that a flamenco dancer is like a fine wine – it only gets better age. It’s never too late to start.
Even if you have no dance experience at all, you can begin to learn Flamenco at any age. Most studios have a beginner of Flamenco Basics course or class. These beginner/basics courses will often teach you the basics such as; correct posture, the different rhythms (a lot of flamenco music is counted in 12 and even 5), the different ways of clapping also known as palmas.
How to stamp your feet, and the different parts of the foot that are used to make sound. How to hold and move your skirt, how to articulate your fingers and wrist making the beautiful circles as the dancers move their arms.
A beginners course is always the best place to start, even if you are a proficient dancer in other dance styles.
Flamenco is very different technically to many other dance styles including tap, as such a basics course will help you establish a good understanding of the music, and safe dance practices that will allow you to dance for many many years.
What to wear?
It can always be daunting knowing what to wear. Activewear such as leggings and a t-shirt are perfectly fine. If you have a leotard, wear that. Flamenco skirts are encouraged. Most studios will have a range of practice skirts available for students.
If you have what is known as a “character skirt”, usually used in typical Ballet examinations and available from many dancewear shops this will do also.
Most students don’t have flamenco shoes for their first lesson. Some studios may have some loan pairs in the studio to use. Many students can start their Flamenco journey wearing sneakers (running shoes are not advised, sneakers with the hard flat sole are preferred).
Alternatively, any hard soled shoe with a thick small heel will be fine.
There are many online sources for flamenco shoes, however local providers such as Fuego Flamenco which is run by one of our Flamenco teachers, Karen Mooney, have a great range of quality authentic Flamenco shoes.