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How important is flamenco in Spain?
flamenco is more of a touristy thing than something that the average Spanish person cares about. Is this true? Do Spanish people care about flamenco?
Depends on which Spanish people. Some have compared it to country in the US. It isn’t a bad comparison, although blues would have been more appropriate:
Like blues, flamenco is associated to a poor minority (gypsies).
Like blues, it is also associated to our “Deep South”, even if industrial towns up North have also made it their own, thanks to internal migration (Catalan rumba, for instance, could be roughly the equivalent of Chicago blues).
Like blues, it has permeated much of pop music.
And like blues, it isn’t really popular in our “Midwest” (Northern Castille and Navarra, mainly), where people are most conservative, not to say stuck up. To be honest, I’m from that area, and flamenco does indeed tend to leave me rather cold.
Dancing is the most popular of flamenco‘s expression forms. You surely have seen a video or a picture of a woman wearing a spectacular dress while dancing passionately.
But flamenco is more than that.
Along with singing and guitar playing, flamenco is a state of mind. It’s a powerful art that usually conveys deep emotions such as pain and sadness.
This is what differentiates flamenco and what makes it a global phenomenon – the emotion. When you see a performance, you can feel the strong bonds between the dancer, the singer, and the guitarist. The performers work as a seamless unit, often exchanging glances and interacting on stage, passing words of encouragement and praise that connect the performers and the audience.
Actually, there is also a dialogue between the artists and the audience. And the best way to experience this connection is to go to a live flamenco show. The atmosphere that is created is hard to describe.
Did you know that some of the most important flamenco festivals and events (e.g. the Suma Flamenca) take place in Madrid?
Fortunately, you don’t need to wait for a big festival to enjoy a real flamenco show in Madrid. You can go to a tablao, a concert hall, a flamenco bar or even to a cultural associations.
Some say that tablaos are just for tourists, and while it is true that you will find tourists in every show, tourists also fill the Prado Museum day after day and no one complains about that. Inform yourself well and go to shows where a good flamenco performance is guaranteed.
Alternatively, you can go to an intimate show where classic flamenco recitals take place without microphones or amplification. An experience not to be missed.
I am sure that this question has just come to your mind, hasn’t it?
Or you have already tried the obvious: googling the best shows in Madrid only to end up with hundreds of results. After all, considering the Madrid offers a wide range of options, it would be hard to expect otherwise.
So here are the good news…
You don’t need to search for anything or take any decision because I’ve done the hard work for you.
As I mentioned before, Madrid offers a vast array of flamenco show options and not all are equally authentic. Consequently, finding a genuine, high-quality show can sometimes be a little tricky.
And yes, there are a few tourist traps that you should stay away from…
So what should you look for? Are there any tips or hints that you should follow when choosing a flamenco show?
Yes indeed, and I have listed them all in the following insider guide!
Immerse yourself in Spanish culture and take flamenco lessons in Madrid.
You can learn the basic steps of flamenco and put them into practice in a very simple piece of choreography. The idea is to learn the basic steps of the dance, including hand movements, and how to mark the rhythm through clapping.
It is the perfect chance to meet locals, get a glimpse of flamenco behind the scenes and get to know more about flamenco music as well.
The flamenco history started some 300 years ago. It’s said that it has roots from all the medieval cultures that inhabited Spain. Thus, it’s a dance that intermingles features from the local musical culture and many others thanks to the influences travellers brought back to Spain from the colonies.
However, it has always been linked to the Spanish gypsy community. They have been for decades the major spreading actors of this musical style within Spain, but also abroad. And they still are, the most famous virtuosos are gypsies.
Did you know that in the 1930s the most famous dance in Spain was on the verge of disappearance? Pure singing was rejected, the taste for the authentic was lost, and only superficial performances were appreciated. Fortunately, from the 1950s on it became so popular that today it is one of the symbols of the Spanish culture.
Flamenco in Spain was initially performed at family parties or among peasants, so it has naturally evolved in a myriad of styles. The list is so long only experts are capable of recognizing them all!
Every style is called palo and represents a different traditional flamenco variety. To give you an idea of how wide flamenco can be, there are more than 50 palos which, in turn, can have many variations…
There are confronted opinions on what is the most important element of flamenco.
While some experts claim that the songs, and most particularly the lyrics, are essential, others affirm that without the introduction of the guitar, flamenco would be just too arid and harsh.
Flamenco has 3 main forms of expression:
What is flamenco about? Do you know the difference between the cante grande and the cante intermedio?
The myriad of terms used to describe the music, the rhythm and the feelings related to flamenco is so wide that you should at least know a bit about the basics.
A glossary helps you to understand flamenco dancing and the importance it has in Spain. Although not exhaustive, it introduces you to some basic concepts providing either a short explanation or a translation. A must read if you plan to attend a show and know more about the subject!