We only have documentation of the history of Flamenco for the past couple of hundred years, before then it’s just folklore and stories that have been passed down through the generations.
We do however definitely know that Flamenco was just a chant or a cry that was only accompanied by a primitive rhythm that most likely came from a wooden stick being hit on the ground.
Later guitar was added to the mix, as was much handclapping and foot stomping also called Jaleo or hell raising. Anyone is allowed to join in with this when the music is played live.
Types of Flamenco songs
Palo Secos – the translation of that is dry styles, these were the original and very primitive songs
Tonas – the rhythm on these songs was created by blacksmiths hitting their hammers on an anvil
Carceleras – these were prison songs
Saeta – is a song of devotion
Types of songs
There are two categories of songs – gypsy songs also called Cante Gitano and Andalucian songs – Cante Andaluz. The gypsies came from India and brought their dance style with them, it is they who are believed to be the original inventors of Flamenco.
Increase in popularity
It was only later – around the 18th century that the local population began to get interested in the dance and hired dancers for private parties of the rich and famous. Flamenco had finally arrived and although it’s popularity has varied over the years, it is presently as popular as it has ever been.
The centre of the Flamenco world is in the south of Spain in the area around Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Seville, although is it also popular throughout Andalucia. It has also spread worldwide and you can find Flamenco classes and shows in many of the big cities of the world, especially those with a hispanic influence. Find out more here.
Flamenco is a very ancient and traditional dance that is very exciting, loud and passionate. Much of it was traditionally improvised but it’s possible to learn lots of steps in classes.
It’s not necessary to be particularly fit or flexible to start off learning Flamenco, all ages and body shapes can give it a go.
But it should hopefully help your fitness levels greatly.
Flamenco is not always the easiest dance however, it has a complex rhythms and counting patterns and if you have no dance experience and aren’t very well co-ordinated you might be best of trying another form of dancing first.
But if you have reasonable sense of rhythm and can co-ordinate your feet, it is possible to quickly learn some moves and experience the excitement of Flamenco. This should hopefully give you the motivation to carry on with it.
What should I wear?
You don’t really need too much in the way of specialist clothing when you are starting off. The key things to know are that you should wear clothes that are comfortable and give you plenty of movement. But you don’t want to wear a pair of trousers that are too long because you need to tap the floor and it won’t be possible to do this cleanly if you trousers are too long.
Shoes are the most important thing. Although they do provide good protection, sneakers aren’t the best idea because you won’t be able to make the tapping and stamping noises that are important in Flamenco. These noises are very satisfying and important for Flamenco. And they also let the teacher know when you are making any mistakes.
So try to ear a pair of non-rubber solid-soled shoes that will make a noise whenever you tap them on the floor or even walk on them. Smooth soles are best because they enable you to turn nice and easily.
When you become better at Flamenco you might want to look at getting a pair of specialist Flamenco shoes – Character Shoes is what they are called, you might need to get a pair online if you don’t live in a big city. These shoes look rather like tap dancing shoes but don’t have the metal on them that tap dancing shoes have. Find out more about how to choose dance shoes .
Choosing a school/teacher
Make sure that you find a teacher with plenty of patience. Flamenco can be quite a complex dance, so you want someone who is patient and doesn’t get bored or angry with beginners.
Make sure that you can easily understand what your teacher is saying, if their english isn’t too good it might be harder to know what you should be doing.
Pick a teacher who has good motivational skills and is going to encourage rather than discourage you. You could even go on holiday to learn Flamenco.
Why Flamenco is so good
It’s a great exercise
It’s great for stress, all your cares will vanish
It’s beautiful dance – very passionate and colourful
If you find it difficult to find a Flamenco class, there are plenty of other types of dancing that you might like to try. It is easier to find Salsa classes, have a look for more information about this here. Or if you want something more energetic you could try Zumba. But if you do Zumba make sure you get the right shoes for it or you could damage your feet. Click on this link if you want to find out what are the best Zumba shoes in 2016. If Zumba or Salsa are too energetic for you then a gentler alternative is line dancing, which is very easy. But I’d still recommend giving Flamenco a go!