Though often thought of as the prime example of Spanish dance, Flamenco is a regional dance and musical art, specific to Andalusia in the south of Spain. Performed by both men and women, flamenco originated as a social dance form but soon became a popular performance art, featured in theatres the world over.
Origins and Influences of Flamenco
Arabic influences are apparent in flamenco music and dance. The proximity of southern Spain to Morocco and the centuries of Moorish rule in Spain lent musical and choreographic influences to the dance and music form we recognise as flamenco. Elements of Arabic dance styles,( or "belly dance") can be seen in some of the choreography. The "shimmy" move in belly dance is reminiscent of the heel work used in flamenco dance; the wooden castanets flamenco dancers use are similar to the metal cymbals used in gypsy and belly dance performance mediums.
The percussive rhythms of flamenco music and dance are achieved by the distinctive guitar stylings and the percussive accessories the dancers use. Flamenco features a distinctive stamping into the ground with the heels, creating a rhythm along with the dynamics of the accompaniment. Castanets, small wooden discs worn on the fingers, add to the musical rhythms as well.
Men and Women's Dance
Women and men dance the flamenco. Men's movements focus on the heel work and upper body movement. Women's movements utilise these same elements, but the aspect of the costume is added as well. Movements using the large ruffled skirt add to the aesthetics of the dance. Skirt technique is considered a specific element of flamenco study.
Influence on Classical Ballet
Some classical ballets feature "character" dances which take inspiration from flamenco choreography and music. Ballets such as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, La Ventana, The Toreador and Don Quixote feature choreographic elements from flamenco to enrich character development or bring authenticity to the story's setting. Because of the large difference between the types of dance footwear used in classical ballet and flamenco, the influences are usually limited to upper body work, presentation of the arms, fan work and the integration of the flamenco skirt into the choreography.
New Flamenco/Flamenco Nuevo
In the 1970's, flamenco singers and musicians began fusing flamenco music with different forms of music from around the world; choreographers and dancers soon followed suit. Elements from classical ballet and contemporary dance, as well as various Latin American dance forms can now be seen in fusion flamenco performances by professional companies. Some Spanish flamenco performers such as Farruco y Farruquito and Juana Amaya, are dedicated to preserving the authenticity of traditional gypsy flamenco dance, and perform this style exclusively.
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- Lonely Planet: Spain: History of Andalucia
- All About Spain: Flamenco History;chronicles an overview of the development of flamenco in Spain
- Worlds Arts West: San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival: Information on the history of flamenco dance
- Ballets of August Bournonville: Information on Spanish influence in La Ventana
- Voice of Dance: Review of San Francisco Ballet's performance of Don Quixote