marți, 10 ianuarie 2012


Flamenco is a folk art, around 200 years old. It is from Southern Spain and is individualistic, yet structured. Song, dance and guitar are blended into passionate rhythms which are often improvised and spontaneous. Flamenco will have any imaginable theme, from up to date stories, to politics, to love, to history, to humor, etc. Often however, the tragic lyrics and tone of flamenco reflect the sufferings of the gypsy people from whom it originated

Flamenco exists in three forms: Cante, the song, Baile, the dance, and Guitarra, guitar playing. The source of Flamenco, however, lies in the tradition of singing. The singers' role is very important with the guitar playing an accompaniment to the song. Today the solo guitar flamenco has developed into a separate art and is fashionably blended with jazz, blues and pop music.

Baile (dance)

El baile flamenco is known for its emotional intensity, proud carriage, expressive use of the arms and rhythmic stamping of the feet. As with any dance form, many different styles of flamenco have developed.

In its most authentic form, flamenco can be seen danced informally at gitano (Gypsy) weddings and

celebrations in Spain. There is less virtuoso technique in gitano flamenco, but the music and steps are fundamentally the same. The arms are noticeably different to classical flamenco, curving around the head and body rather than extending, often with a bent elbow.

"Flamenco puro" is considered the form of performance flamenco closest to its gitano origins. In this style, the dance is always performed solo, and is improvised rather than choreographed. Some purists frown on castanets (even though they can be seen in many early 20th century photos of flamenco dancers).

The type of dance most Europeans would call "flamenco" is a commercialized style, developed as a spectacle for tourists. To add variety, group dances are included, and even solos are more likely to be choreographed. The frilly, volum

inous spotted dresses are derived from a style of dress worn for the annual Feria in Seville (the original is actually too tight to dance in!).

"Classical flamenco" is the style used in modern Spanish flamenco dance companies. It is characterized by a proud, upright carriage - for the women, the back is often held in a marked back bend. Unlike gitano flamenco, there is little movement of the hips, the body is tightly held and the arms are long, like a ballet dancer. In fact many of the dancers in these companies have trained in ballet as well as flamenco.

Modern flamenco is a highly technical dance style requiring years of study. The emphasis for both male and female performers is on lightning-fast footwork performed with absolute precision. In addition, the d

ancer may have to dance while using props such as castanets, shawls and fans.

"Flamenco nuevo" is the new wave in flamenco, characterized by pared-down costumes (the men often dance bare-chested, and the women in plain jersey dresses). Props such as castanets, fans and shawls are rarely, if ever, used. Dances are choreographed and include influences from other dance styles.

In traditional flamenco, young people are not considered to have the emotional maturity to adequately convey the "due

nde" (soul) of the genre. Therefore unlike other dance forms, where dancers turn professional early to take advantage of youth and strength, many flamenco dancers do not hit their peak until their thirties and will continue to perform into their fifties and beyond.


There are questions not only about the origins of flamenco, but also about the origins of the word itself. There are many theories (summarized below), but no solid evidence for any of them. The word was not recorded until the late 18th century.

George Borrow asserted the word flemenc [sic] is synonymous with "gypsy". Blas Infante, in his book Orígenes de lo flamenco y secreto del cante jondo, suggests the word may derive from Andalusian Arabic

fellah mengu, "Escapee Peasant", referring to the Muslim Andalusians (Moriscos) who stayed in Spain and mixed with the Romani newcomers when the Spanish reclaimed their land.

Other hypotheses include "Fleming, native of Flanders" (Dutch Vlaming). Spain ruled Flanders for many years, and Charles I of Spain is said to have brought to Toledo an entire Flemish court. His father Felipe de Austria's Spanish wife brought Andalusian musicians to Court, and the Habsburg Spanish troops in their Netherlands domains were accompanied by musicians, and on their return to Spain these became known to other Europeans, including the players of more sober traditional Andalusian music as 'Flamenco', the flemish style.

The entry for "Flamenco" in the 1786 Diccionario español e ingles (Volume 1), gives the following definition: "f.m. a bird that has a red breast and pinions". "Flama" in Spanish means flame or fire, and "enco" or "endo", is a suffix which means a quality-of, or having a-similarity-to, or pertaining-to. This association between a fiery-breasted bird and the deep, flaming passion expressed in Flamenco music, song and dance, is wholly appropriate.

Flamenco today

From it's roots in eighteenth century popular theatre, most flamenco performers were professionals. Originally they learned from other performers in the manner of an apprenticeship, not in conservatoriums or dance schools as is usually the way now. Today, most guitarists undergo rigorous professional training and often can read and play music in other styles like classical guitar or jazz and many dancers take courses in ballet and contemporary dance as well as flamenco.

Flamenco occurs in four settings - the juerga, in small-scale cabaret, concert venues and in the theatre.

The juerga is an informal, spontaneous gitano gathering (rather like a jazz "jam session"). This can include dancing, singing, palmas (hand clapping), or simply pounding in rhythm on an old orange crate or a table. Flamenco, in this context, is organic and dynamic: it adapts to the local talent, instrumentation, and mood of the audience. This context invites comparison with that other creation of a dispossessed class, the blues. The Gypsy Blues, or even the European Blues as a means of providing a frame of reference to those new to the genre.

One tradition r

emains firmly in place: the cantaores (singers) are the heart and soul of the performance. A Peña Flamenca is a meeting place or grouping of Flamenco musicians or artists. There are also "tablaos", establishments that developed during the 1960s throughout Spain replacing the "café cantante". The tablaos may have their own company of performers for each show. Many internationally renowned artists have started their careers in "tablaos flamencos", like the famous singer Miguel Poveda who began in El Cordobés, Barcelona.

The professional concert is more formal. A traditional singing performance has only a singer and one guitar, while a dance concert usually includes two or three guitars, one or more singers (singing in turns, as flamenco cantaors sing solo), and one or more dancers. One of the singers may play the cajon (a wooden box drum played with the hands) if there is no dedicated cajon player, and all performers will play palmas even if there are dedicated palmeros. The so-called Nuevo Flamenco New flamenco may include flutes or saxophones, piano or other keyboards, or even the bass guitar and the electric guitar. Camarón de la Isla was one artist who popularized this style.

Finally, there is the theatrical presentation of flamenco. However, it is now an extended and sophisticated performanc

e in its own right, comparable to a performance of ballet


Flamenco music styles are called palos. Songs are classified into palos based on criteria such as basic rhythmic pattern, mode, chord progression, form of the stanza, and geographic origin. There are over 50 different palos flamenco, although some are rarely performed.

There are traditions associated with each palo. Some of the forms are sung

unaccompanied, while others usually have guitar or other accompaniment. Some forms are danced while others are not. Some are the reserve of men and others of women, while some may be performed by either. Many of these traditional distinctions are breaking down; for example, the Farruca is now commonly performed by women too.

Palos are traditionally classified into three groups. The most serious forms are known as cante jondo (or cante grande), while lighter, frivolous forms are called cante chico. Other considerations factor into classification, such as whether the palo is considered to be of gypsy origin or not. Forms which do not fit either category are classified as cante intermedio.

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