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
"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.