Encyclopedia of Dance: Flamenco


Temperamental, incendiary flamenco will not leave anyone indifferent. The legs themselves will move to the beat of passionate music, and the palms will tap out an expressive rhythm

Flamenco culture was formed in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula, mainly in Andalusia. In general, flamenco culture includes the art of music. To a large extent, this is guitar, vocal art, dance, theatrical and characteristic style of clothing. The term «flamenco» is closely connected with the culture and life of the gypsies, in Andalusia for 150 years it meant precisely this nation. There are other versions of this term: in Spanish, flamenco, in addition to gypsies, also meant “Fleming” and “flamingo”. A version of the origin of the term is also possible from the Latin flamma — fire. Obviously, each interpretation partially corresponds to the truth, and, taken together, they create a holistic image of the entire flamenco culture.

The history of the origin of the dance

For a long time, the gypsies were considered the only carriers of the flamenco culture. They arrived in Spain in the 15th century from Byzantium, and began to absorb the local traditions of music and dance. And in Spain there was a strong influence of Arab, Moorish culture. So, the gypsies, having absorbed Spanish, Arabic, Jewish traditions, and combining them with their own original culture, created such a unique phenomenon as flamenco. They lived in closed, isolated groups, and flamenco was an isolated art for a long period. But in the 18th century, with the end of the persecution of the gypsies, flamenco «went free» and immediately gained popularity.

In the 20th century, flamenco was enriched with Cuban traditions, jazz variations. Spanish classical dance movements also began to be used in flamenco culture. Now flamenco enjoys well-deserved popularity: it is danced by professionals and amateurs, flamenco festivals are regularly held, there are numerous schools of this type of dance.

What is flamenco?

All Spanish dances are based on folk art. Flamenco dances are often accompanied by castanets, hand clapping — palmas, blows to the percussion box (cajon). It is impossible to imagine flamenco without traditional attributes — a long dress, a fan, sometimes a shawl, which the dancer either wraps around her waist or unwinds. An indispensable moment of the dance is the dancer’s play with the hem of her dress. This movement is reminiscent of the gypsy origins of flamenco.


Spanish dance melody is quite often in 3/4 time signature, but it can also be in 2/4 or 4/4 time signature. Flamenco is characterized by the movements of zapadeado — tapping the rhythm with heels, pitos — snapping fingers, palmas — clapping hands. Many flamenco performers refuse castanets, as they do not give the opportunity to fully express the expressiveness of the hands. Hands in Spanish dance work very actively. They give the dance expressiveness and grace. The floreo movement — turning the brush with its opening — is simply mesmerizing. It resembles a flower that gradually blooms.


Under the general name of flamenco, many Spanish dances are united, including allegrias, farruca, garrotin, bulleria and others. There are many styles of flamenco that differ in rhythmic patterns. The most famous of them:

  • Stripes
  • Fandango
  • Solea
  • Segiriyya

The flamenco country style includes dancing, singing, and playing the guitar.

The art of flamenco, being synthetic, uniting the cultures of the East and the West, has influenced the formation of musical and dance styles around the world. Formed modern types of flamenco:

  • gypsy-rumba
  • flamenco-pop
  • flamenco jazz
  • flamenco rock and others.

Flamenco Features

Flamenco dance and music are characterized by improvisation. A complex rhythmic pattern, an abundance of melismas and variations make it difficult to accurately notate music and record dance movements. Therefore, in the art of flamenco, an important role is given to the teacher, through whom the original culture is passed down from generation to generation. Flamenco has influenced Latin American music, jazz. Modern ballet masters and choreographers see in the art of flamenco a great scope for self-realization and the introduction of new ideas.

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