What Is the traditional flamenco costume?

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Developed in the Andalucia region of southern Spain, flamenco is a style of guitar music and dance that is as expressive as it is complex. Flamenco has more than 50 styles, with performers improvising with grand gestures as they sing or dance to rhythmic music.

Cultures such as Islamic, Jewish, Andalusian and Romany are said to have created the original style of flamenco, which is still performed today by men and women in unique and colourful traditional costumes.

Woman's costume

The woman's flamenco costume is extravagant and styled for the expressive requirements of the rhythmic dance steps. The largest element of the costume is the bata de cola, which is a long skirt that weighs 4.5 kg (10 pounds), trails 1.5 metres (5 feet) behind the dancer and is full of flowing, colourful ruffles. A fringed, colourful, V-pattern shawl, called a mantan, is tied around the waist to give colour to the rest of the costume. Shawls are often silk, and the dresses are designed in a colourful gypsy style, according to the website Andalucia.

Man's costume

The flamenco costume for a man is less involved than the woman's heavy skirt and shawl, and it traditionally only requires black, tight-fitting trousers and shirt worn beneath a short jacket or vest. Male flamenco dancers, according to the website Andalucia, are also seen wearing straw hats.

Costume and Movement

Female flamenco dancers use the bata de cola ruffles while they dance to accentuate the rhythm of the music. The bata de cola is shaken and lifted so the ruffles move with the music and highlight certain sounds. Male flamenco dancers do not use their costume during the dance; their steps are more about complex footwork.

Zapatos (shoes)

As with tap dancing, flamenco requires shoes that have been enhanced for sound. Traditional flamenco shoes have nails driven into the soles on the punta (toe), the planta (ball of the foot), the golpe (flat area of the foot) and tacon (heel). Both male and female flamenco dancers use the nails to bring out sound with expressive dance stepping, called zapateado or taconeo.

Costume Accessories

Male flamenco dancers wear palillos (or "castanets" in English) as a hand accessory to their costume. Palillos are percussion instruments made of double pieces of wood and tied with string to the dancer's thumb. Male flamenco dancers rest the palillos in the palms of their hand and shake them to create a clicking sound. According to the website Andalucia, palillos were not part of original flamenco dancing costume, but were added later to increase the sound made by original finger-snapping. Female flamenco dancers do not use palillos, but hold decorated, lace-trimmed fans that accentuate the dancer's hand and wrist movements.