Flamenco is a special type of traditional Spanish dancing that is celebrated the world over for its vibrancy. While once flamenco dancing was exclusively the style Anyone who travels to Spain can see special flamenco song and dance performances in a wide range of cities and locations. While these performances were once a form a self expression and were held during special occasions such as weddings, these days they are often a form of entertainment. Read on to find out more about the rich and colourful history of flamenco.
The Origins of Flamenco Dancing
Flamenco is the traditional type of song and dance that comes from the gypsies of Andalucia, who are known locally as the flamencos. The flamenco art form actually developed gradually over many centuries from a number of roots that include gypsy, Andalusian and Moorish. There are three forms of the flamenco dance, which is known in Spain as the baile. Flamenco dances are used to portray emotion and are generally profound and often tragic in nature, moderately serious or light and exuberant and used to portray love as well as nature. While there are traditional themes and steps to each of the characteristics of flamenco dance, each dance is unique as there is a large improvisational aspect involved. This gives flamenco dancers the freedom to put their own mark on their dances and create trademark styles that they become known and even celebrated form. Traditionally, male flamenco dancing is characterized by intricate steps of clicking heel to toe, while the female flamenco dancers are celebrated for their graceful hand and body movements.
A New Era of Flamenco
The 19th and 20th centuries presented a dramatic chance to the face of flamenco dancing. In the 19th century flamenco dancing and the accompanying music became particularly popular as a form of entertainment in cafes located throughout Spain. The now famous café cantante period lasted from 1850 to 1910 and is also known as the Golden age of flamenco. However, many gypsy singers and dancers refused to perform in these cafes and confirm to the time and style constraints that were placed on them, which led to non-gypsy performers taking to the stage and bringing with them their own milder and lighter form of flamenco which was known as fandangos and were based on traditional Andalucían folk songs. These fandangos quickly became popular in all parts of Spain and numerous interpretations as well as flamenco troupes were created.
During the latter part of the 19th century flamenco cafes started to become transformed into cabaret style clubs where more vibrant and showy styles of dance were celebrated. The original gypsy style of flamenco dancing became less popular and most of the gypsy flamenco performers retired to the home villages to continue their art form.
However, in the 1920s the celebrated composer Manuel de Falla and the poet Federico Garcia Lorca joined forces with a number of other performers on a quest to reinstate and popularise the original form of flamenco. They held a special competition that would be judged by a number of influential artists and invited flamenco singers and dancers to take part. This special competition was known as the Concurso de Cante Jondo and was held on the 13th and 14th of June in 1922 in the large and picturesque gardens of the Alhambra Palace in the city of Granada.
During the first and second world wars the people of Andalucía faced extreme poverty and starvation and as a result flamenco became all but obsolete. However, in the 1950s there was a large flamenco revival that swept throughout Spain and helped to make this traditional form of song and dance famous once more and secure a firm place for it in the hearts of the Spanish people.
Flamenco Dancing Today
The face of flamenco changed once again in the 1960s when flamenco became a form of popular music and dance that were adopted by the younger generation. As a result, flamenco singers and dancers were awarded the status of modern day rock stars and the most famous of them attracted large numbers of fans. Cameron de la Isla was one of the first ever flamenco legends and helped to transform the flamenco scene and make it popular in many other countries throughout Europe. Cameron de la Isla was known for experimenting with the flamenco style and mixing in other genres of music. He produced many albums of flamenco music during his career, which were sold in countries all around the world.
A huge number of new styles of flamenco were suddenly released by other competing artists and during the 1980s and 1990s flamenco music achieve a prominent place in modern music charts. Artists such as the Gypsy Kings helped to promote this style of music to people who had never heard of flamenco before and it could often be heard on the radio as well as in bars, cafes and even clubs.
Flamenco music and especially the dances that accompany it became deeply associated with Spain and the Spanish culture. As flamenco troupes toured the world, people from all corners of the planet discovered a love for flamenco dancing and had the desire to try it for themselves. Schools teaching flamenco dancing were quickly established in countries the world over and many people started to adopt flamenco dancing as a form of socialising and exercise.
These days, when most people travel to Spain they add the experience of watching a flamenco performance to their list of things to do. As a result, flamenco dancing became popularised a form of entertainment for tourists as well as the people of Spain. Flamenco dancing can be seen at most celebrations throughout Spain where the culture of the country is promoted.
Where to Watch Flamenco Dancing
While flamenco performances can be enjoyed in many parts of Spain, there are some parts of the country where the origins of flamenco dance have been especially preserved and promoted. Seville is a great place to enjoy flamenco dancing and shows can be found all over the city. While dinner shows that feature flamenco dancing are popular, people who are searching for a more intimate experience should check out one of Seville’s special flamenco bars.
People who are interested in the Moorish origins of flamenco should seek out a performance in Cordoba. The city has a strong flamenco tradition and flamenco dancing can be seen in a large number of old taverns that can be found scattered throughout the city.
Anyone who is planning a trip to Granada should make sure that they held to the caves of Sacramonte to catch an unforgettable flamenco performance. There are several different cave performances to choose from here and the caves provide the perfect acoustics for the singers, while the flamenco dancers really help to create the mood and present the traditional flamenco style to full effect.
Celebrated Flamenco Dancers
Of course, without the vibrant and energetic flamenco dancers that have helped to popularise this traditional Spanish dance, flamenco would be practically unknown to people in the rest of the world. Here are some of the most famous Spanish flamenco dancers and details of what makes them so special.
This celebrated flamenco dancer was born in the city of Barcelona in 1913 and is known as being one of the most impressive bailaoras, which is the traditional Spanish name for female flamenco dancers. One of the things that made Carman Amaya stand out among the bailaoras of the 20th century is her hard a rather masculine style of dancing the flamenco. She danced with ferocious passion and while many people have tried to imitate her style over the year, it has often been said that nobody has been able to truly come close to the unique style of Carman Amaya. She is particularly noted for her extremely fast a rattling footwork that added its own percussion to the dance and in fact she danced so hard and fast that during several performances she actually put her foot through the wooden boards of the stage. While most female flamenco dancers favoured long skirts, Carmen Amaya was known for wearing the Traje corto, which are tight fitting suits that are more commonly worn by male flamenco dancers. Her ability to break the rules and traditions of flamenco helped Carmen Amaya to modernise flamenco and she was often noted for her pursuit of perfection.
Born Antonio Montoya Flores, the gypsy dancer who is better known as El Farruco received no official training in the world of dance, which makes his rise to fame even more impressive. He was born in Madrid in 1935 under the name Antonio Montoya Flores into a famous musical family and as a result he spent most of his childhood traveling around Spain with his family and living a traditional gypsy lifestyle. El Farruco’s mother hailed from Morocco and was a renowned dancer. One of the things that makes El Farrucco a household name among lovers of flamenco dancing is his dramatic flair and unusual style. His creation of characters helps him to rouse emotion and he combined slow buildups with short bursts of frantic energy that really helped to stir the senses. His impeccable sense of timing and love for promoting traditional gypsy flamenco dancing led El Farruco to open his own dance school and many of the most successful dancers of today have studied at this prestigious school. El Farrucco can also be found travelling the world with his famous family flamenco troupe and performing in special stage shows such as the Expo that was held in Seville in 1992.
Farruquito, who was born Juan Manuel Fernandez Montoya in the city of Seville in 1982, is perhaps one of the most famous flamenco dancers still performing to this day. He is the grandson of the legendary El Farruco and has devoted his life to carrying on the family legacy. Farruquito first appeared on stage at the age of five when he danced right beside his grandfather in the Broadway show Flamenco Puro. However, he is perhaps best known for his role in the hit film Flamenco, which was directed by Carlos Sauras. Over the years, Farruquito has appeared in numerous flamenco films and special stage shows, many either with or directed by his grandfather. These days, Farruquito can be seen touring the world with his famous flamenco troupe Los Farrucos, which features several members of this talented flamenco family including his brother Farruco Nieto and his mother.
This is one of the most flamboyant flamenco dancers and El Carrete can still be seen performing in flamenco shows in the city of Malaga to this day. He was born in 1941 and during his long and celebrated career he has toured the world and performed right alongside some of the most impressive dancers on the planet.
This celebrated flamenco dancer was trained by her mother from a very early age at the renowned dance school La Tertulia Flamenca de la Isla. She later went on to become an apprentice flamenco dancer at Los Niños de la Tertulia Flamenco and got her big break by joining Gitanos de Jerez, which is a company that was established in Cadiz in order to showcase new flamenco talent. During her time with this famous flamenco company, Sara Baras has gone on several tours, including a two year long tour of Europe during which time she danced at the legendary Edward VII Theater in the city of Paris. Sara Baras became so successful that in 1997 she was able to establish her very own dance troupe, which she named the Ballet Flamenca de Sara Baras with a star studded debut at the Festival de la Union that was held in the city of Murcía. Sara Baras is perhaps best known for her spontaneous approach to flamenco, which takes the old traditions and gives them a modern twist so that her performances appeal to audiences all over the world.