Flamenco is a marvelous and passionate dance. Full of spellbinding movements and captivating melodies, flamenco transmits the truth of its culture through the most intense and fascinating way. If you want to dance flamenco, there are five essential things you ought to know. Since flamenco is a communication between the bailaor (the dancer), the cantaor (the singer) and the guitarist, there are many elements and notions that must be integrated.
Assisting to a Flamenco Show in Madrid is a great idea to enjoy the Spanish culture. If after the show you want to learn flamenco, here you will find five key steps that may help your dance. This article on “How to Dance Flamenco in Five Easy Steps” was kindly written by Iliana Sfeir, a flamenco instructor and dancer. Enjoy!
First step: adapt the correct position of your body.
Flamenco is a demanding dance since the bailaor must do footwork while moving the upper part of the body. That requires a lot of strength, equilibrium and control of the body. In order to reach that ideal position, the bailaor must align their spine trying to diminish its curve. Additionally, the knees must be semi-bent and the chest must be upraised.
Second step: understand the rhythm of the music.
The compás (the rhythmic cycles of the music) is the foundation of the flamenco music. There are many different palos (the various kinds of rhythms) that vary in length of the compás, rhythm and accents. It is important to understand and recognize each of those palos in order to follow the rhythm correctly.
Third step: learn the movement of the arms.
The braceo flamenco refers to the movement of the arms, the hands and the fingers and it is one of the most characteristic and enchanting elements of this dance. This braceo consists of moving the arms drawing semi circles in both directions: from the inside to the outside of the body and from the outside to the inside. While the bailaor is doing these movements, they also move their hands in circles using the wrists and the fingers.
Fourth step: learn the movement of the body.
The marcajes consist of steps made in rhythm while moving the arms. The bailaor can also include moves of the shoulders, torso and hips. Through marcajes the bailaor moves around the stage following the rhythm of the music.
Fifth step: study the footwork.
Another essential feature of flamenco is the zapateo (the tapping bailaores do while dancing wearing special shoes that have nails in the soles of the heels and the toes.) The zapateo requires a lot of study and training. It consists of rhythmical percussion performed by the bailaor in specific moments of the dance. Bailaores use this zapateo to communicate with the cantaor and the guitarist.
This communication between the performers and the history of this culture make flamenco a unique and charming dance. Bailaores will find the magic of flamenco in the integration of all these features. Dare yourself to learn about the Spanish culture through flamenco and let the dance captivate you! There are many places in the city where flamenco is taught, so register for a class and enjoy!
Sixth step: learn steps and perform them.
One key aspect of learning is repetition: the more, the better. Learn some steps including footwork, braceo and marcajes and repeat them as many times as you can, so you that your body becomes familiar with those movements. Start by performing them very slowly and then rise the speed progressively. The repetition will allow you to feel comfortable and ready to learn some more new steps.
Seventh step: learn the structure of the dance.
Since flamenco is a communication between the dancer, the singer and the guitarist, there are many specific codes that will make that communication possible. During a flamenco performance, there are many components for the artists to carry out.
When the music starts, usually with the guitar, the dancer enters the stage; this is called the salida. After that, the dancer performs a llamada, which consists of strong footwork as a signal for the singer to sing a verse (letra). In that moment the dancer will do some marcajes to accompany the singing.
After the verses, there can be some falsetas (a guitar solo) that the dancer will accompany with movements of the body or some footwork.
In addition, the dancer can perform escobillas, which consist of a series of footwork.
At the end of the performance, there is generally a rise in the speed led by the dancer in order to finish the dance.
The order and the length of the structure will depend on the dancer, the singer and the guitarist. Hence, it is important for the dancer to learn and understand the structure of a live flamenco dance and its codes.
Eighth step: watch flamenco.
We all learn by watching and imitating. This is why, it is essential to see flamenco performances both live and recorded. If you have the chance, visit some tablaos and experience the artists’ performances, being conscious of what they are doing and trying to understand the dialogue between them. Fortunately, nowadays the Internet also offers us a lot of information, so surf the net and find some videos and watch them carefully while you enjoy this art.
Ninth step: listen to flamenco music.
Flamenco’s origins are closely related to the singing. Everything we know today comes from what cantaores used to sing. Those primitive singings evolved and became what we know today.
Listen to flamenco singing and explore the diverse palos, rhythms and styles in order to become familiar to the sound, the melodies and all the components of the flamenco music.
Tenth step: put everything together.
Although dancers often learn and work each skill separately, it is crucial to combine everything and make the dance whole. A dancer must be able to perform footwork while doing some braceo and of course, following the rhythm of the music. Hence, little by little, dancers should start working the skills together so that they become comfortable dancing.
Now that you are more familiar with this amazing dance, you can visit some tablaos in Madrid and see bailaores perform while listening to live flamenco music.