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Monday, September 24, 2007 (read 2208 times)

¡Mira quién baila! - A Guide to Spanish Dance

by Erin

Here's a quick guide to Spanish dance, complete with phrases and vocabulary to practice at the end of the article, as it was published in the Costa Blanca News.

As you can see from the photo, our don Quijote schools in Granada and Madrid do indeed offer a Spanish & Flamenco course… Are you tempted?

¡Mira Quién Baila! " A Guide to Spanish Dance
The recent success of reality TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing in Britain and ¡Mira Quién Baila! in Spain has sparked a dance revival. More people than ever are interested in learning to tango and salsa and what better place to do so than here in Spain where many of the dances originated! Dancing is an excellent form of exercise and a very social past-time too, but with so many seemingly similar dances to choose from, where do you start? Here is a guide to some of the more famous Spanish dances …

It is generally agreed that flamenco originated in Andalusía however it is unknown who actually created the dance. It is thought that flamenco was influenced above all by the gitano (gypsy) population and the Islamic occupation of Spain. For this reason Spaniards describe flamenco as "tan puro como un mestizo" (as pure as a half-breed). Many of the songs in flamenco still reflect the spirit of desperation, struggle, hope, and pride of the people during this time of persecution. Although flamenco can be described as a highly-emotive dance with lots of sweeping arms and stomping of the feet it is not a strict art form and much of any performance is improvised.

Good news for anyone wanting to learn! Traditionally flamenco is accompanied by a live guitar, a singer and lots of rhthymic clapping. The dancer takes centre-stage and performs with intensity, scrupulously controlling each part of his or her body. Flamenco music styles are called palos in Spanish. There are over 50 different palos flamenco, although some of them are rarely performed. Castanets are sometimes held in dancer's hands and clicked together rapidly to the rhythm of the music. Sometimes, folding fans are used for visual effect.

The sevillana dance did not actually originate in Seville but was influenced by the seguidilla from Castilla-La Mancha and the French bolero. Although the sevillana describes tales of love and loss in Seville the sevillana is considered to be a less melancholic version of flamenco, full of turns and flaunting, colourful skirts to a light and happy music. Sevillana is a flamenco-style dance, the key difference being that it is danced in pairs (by all ages and sexes) particularly during fiestas where whole families and even whole pueblos join in.

Learning any kind of flamenco usually starts with this particular dance which is very steady and extremely useful to know since it is a fiesta dance. Because of this there are more occasions to practice and it is regarded as fairly simple to reach a particular level. Sevillana is composed of four parts each divided into three coplas, each of these is further divided into just six movements.

The fandango is a courtship dance danced by two people who never touch. The woman plays castenets while the man shakes a tambourine. Both survey and strut around each other acting out the typical "boy sees girl, girl snubs boy, boy chases girl" scenario. The woman is dressed in a short silk dress while the man traditionally sports a sequinned waistcoat. At breaks in the music both dancers freeze until the music is resumed. The fandango is said to date back to Phoenician soil and seventeenth century belly dancers, however in spite of this it is also considered the foundation of all other Spanish dances and has even been represented in various ballets.

As Al Pacino says in the 1992 film The Scent of a Woman, "The tango is the easiest dance. If you make a mistake and get tangled up, you just tango on." The tango originated in Andalusía but was exported to Argentina to become what it is today. A dance of ballroom origin in Andalucía, the dance Argentina developed into what it is today is said to have originated with the gauchos (horse riders) in Buenos Aires.

The gauchos wore chaps (leather leggings worn over trousers to protect the legs) that hardened from the foam and sweat of the horse's body, which is why they walked with flexed knees. They would wander in to crowded bars and ask girls to dance. Since the gaucho hadn't washed he would smell so badly that the lady would dance in the crook of the man's right arm and hold her head right back. She held her hand by his left hip hoping to be handed a payment from his pocket. The rooms were so small that they would dance around the tables in a curving fashion! Traditionally women wear skirts and men wear high boots with spurs while dancing the tango. In times gone by its suggestive music has led many to consider the tango immoral but today it is one of the most popular ballroom dances worldwide.

Dance is one of the most characteristic cultural expressions of each Spanish region and whether you want to learn or just watch there are abundant opportunities to enjoy it, particularly in the south.

LESSON: Phrases and Vocabulary

  • ¡Baila Baila Baila!… Dance Dance Dance!
  • Bailar… To dance
  • Clase de baile… Dance class
  • Bailaor/a… Dancer (of flamenco)
  • Bailarín/a… Dancer
  • Instructor de baile… Dance Teacher
  • ¿Dónde se puede encontrar clases de baile?… Where can I find dance classes?
  • ¿Qué tipo de baile enseñas?… What type of dance do you teach?
  • ¿Cuándo son las clases? ¿A qué hora?… When are the classes? What time?
  • ¿Dónde se puede ver flamenco?… Where can I see a flamenco show?
  • ¡Muy bien! or ¡Bravo!… Good show!
  • La música… Music
  • Más rápido… Faster
  • Más lento… Slower
  • Necesito practicar… I need to practice

Keywords: vocabulary,spanish,spain,culture,beginners


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