Passionate Ancestral Art

What is Flamenco?

Flamenco is an art form based on the folkloric music traditions of Andalusia. It expresses passion through song (“cante”), dance (“baile”) and guitar (“toque”). This ancestral art is still very much alive today. Flamenco is at the core of Andalusian culture. It is part of festivities, celebrations and also every day life. It’s in their blood!

Three dancers at the stage of Teatro Flamenco Madrid
Three dancers at the stage of Teatro Flamenco Madrid

Although its exact origins are open to debate, it seems clear that flamenco was born in Andalusia. It is believed to have originated from the Roma music that the gypsies (“gitanos” in Spanish) brought with them when they migrated to Spain from northern India (9th to 15th centuries).

Over the centuries, it mixed with the Jewish, Moorish and Christian cultures that occupied Spain, creating this unique art form that we now call flamenco.

One of the most characteristic elements of flamenco is what is called “duende.” This concept represents the emotion and the passion on the performance. It occurs when the performer is “in the zone” and reaches a state where they are overcome by the emotion and passion of the performance.

Here are some other important characteristics of flamenco:

  • Jaleo – A lot of hand clapping, foot stomping and shouting to encourage the artists. In a performance, there are always shouts like “¡Olé!” and “¡Guapa!”
  • Zapateado – Intricate toe- and heel-clicking steps which characterizes male dances.
  • Castanets (castañuelas) – Percussion instrument consisting on two pieces of concave carved wood that are clacked together with the hands.
  • A lot of improvisation.
Bailaor (male flamenco dancer) with castanets at Tablao Las Carboneras in Madrid
Dancer with castanets at Tablao Las Carboneras

There are many different genres of flamenco (bulerías, sevillanas, fandangos, etc.), but all flamenco songs fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Cante jondo (“profound song”) – the oldest form of flamenco. It is characterized by deep emotions and it often deals with death, anguish and pain.
  • Cante intermedio (“intermediate song”) – hybrid that incorporates elements of Spanish music styles.
  • Cante chico (“light song”) – simpler in rhythm, it requires much less emotional investment. It deals with more joyful subjects, such as love.

In 2010, flamenco was even declared one of the Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

If you are interested in seeing a flamenco performance on your visit to Spain then below you will find a selection of the best flamenco shows in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Cordoba and Malaga.

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