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What is Flamenco Dancing?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
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Flamenco dancing is one of the three integral parts of the art of flamenco. It came from Andalusia in what is now Spain, influenced heavily by the local gypsy population, the Gitanos. Large amounts of the musical stylings and dance movements come from the Jewish tradition, as well as from Moorish culture.

The three main forms which make up flamenco are the guitarra or guitar playing, cante or song, and baile or dancing. It is difficult to separate the cante from the baile, as the two draw upon similar traditions and work off of one another. Flamenco dancing appears to have its origins in the latter half of the eighteenth century. A number of flamenco schools sprang up around 1800 in Seville, each with its own distinctive take on the art.

Originally the dancing was set to no music, only singing and toque de palmas, the clapping of hands. Some contemporary flamenco dancing still follows this tradition, though the use of the guitar and other instruments has been introduced. A musical style known as palos encompasses a wide range of cultural and social contexts, as well as simple rhythmic and stylized differences. The actual dancing may be of different styles depending on the intention of the dance — whether it is to entertain, to pursue a lover or to comfort those in need.

Flamenco dancing is an incredibly emotive dance style, with the dancer always striving to express his or her emotions through movement. Sharp movements and facial expressions play a greater role in this style of dance than in many others, reflecting this desire to convey the deepest feelings one is experiencing. The dancer may clap their hands, kick their feet, snap castanets (small handheld percussive instruments), or jerk their body abruptly to demonstrate the desired emotion. At the same time, losing control is never an option, and this passionate display is always tempered by sustaining the highest levels of grace and precision in movements.

The most successful flamenco dancers exhibit what is called duende, meaning literally a fairy or goblin, which indicates an amazing grasp of the emotive flow of this art. Dancing at this level of mastery is a visceral experience, pulling the audience in as though they were participants.

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Discussion Comments
By ChessPlayer — On Aug 31, 2010

travel28- The best way to learn the flamenco is to attend a class. Most major cities have flamenco dance lessons for people of all skill levels. Conduct an online search or visit your local community center. They will likely have the information you are looking for.

You can also buy a flamenco dancing video. A good video will show you basic flamenco moves and how to correctly perform them. Videos can be purchased online and at most major retailers.

Purchasing a video is a good way to learn if you are an absolute beginner. You will feel more comfortable attending a class or a club once you have the basics down.

By travel28 — On Aug 31, 2010

lawnmower- Thank you for the good information.

I am interested in learning to dance the flamenco. What is the best way to go about learning traditional flamenco dancing?

By lawnmower — On Aug 31, 2010

knittingpro- I totally agree with you that dancing flamenco is very empowering for women. The flamenco is an incredibly strong dance that makes a woman feel amazing about herself and her body.

It takes a woman who is comfortable with her body and the way it moves to dance the flamenco. You have to be confident and sure of yourself. You can't be shy and timid when dancing the flamenco.

By knittingpro — On Mar 30, 2008

Flamenco dancing is really fun! It is one of the few types of dancing available for women that really celebrates women's REAL bodies instead of trying to make women all fit into an unrealistic skinny body type. In flamenco, women can stomp and use their hips and stand up tall and take up space. It is very empowering!

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