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story by Linda Machado for DanceUs.org

It's Flamenco, not Flamingo!

It's Flamenco, not Flamingo!

It is true  no pink birds here, so do not say Flamingo (fluh-MING-o), say Flamenco (fluh-MEN.co). In fact, Flamenco is not a dance. "What??? But, I saw some amazing dancers in some gorgeous costumes doing some real fast footwork to incredible music - what do you mean its not a dance??" Stay calm  an explanation is in order.

Flamenco is actually the cultural art form of the Andalusian Gypsy. In Flamenco there IS dance; but there is also singing, guitar playing and percussion. Flamenco is not any one of these things by itself  it is the interaction of all these things with each other that give us Flamenco. As a dancer, I am heavily invested in the dance portion, but I know that without most of the other parts, I will not be able to dance Flamenco  well, at least the kind of Flamenco I enjoy the most  improvisational Flamenco. There are different types of Flamenco, such as improvisational and theatrical (sometimes referred to as ballet Flamenco).

Improvisational Flamenco relies on the dancer's solid understanding of the compas (rhythm) for it is the rhythm that governs ALL of Flamenco. Quite frankly, without the rhythm, there can be no Flamenco. Being able to dance improvisational Flamenco also relies on the dancers ability to communicate with the other artists  the guitarist, the singer and the percussionist. Each artist works independently from each other while still connected to each other.

Theatrical Flamenco relies heavily on choreography and musical arrangements. The dancer memorizes choreography which is set to a selected rhythm, and the guitarist plays his or her arrangement to the choreography.

Either path the dancer chooses, improvisational or theatrical (and a dancer can choose both paths), the most important thing that is required to be able to dance Flamenco safely and effectively is a strong foundation. Without a strong foundation a dancer has little hope of succeeding in Flamenco, and can even risk injury. You would never start out in high school would you? I mean without going to elementary school first? How could you possibly manage in high school without knowing your ABCs  which you learn in elementary school? I am sure you have heard the song DO RE MI from the Sound of Music  it goes like this, "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with DO RE MI."

Well, the same thing applies to all dance forms, including Flamenco. Start at the very beginning with a strong foundation, build on it, and revisit it from time to time.

A strong foundation requires having the necessary tools to start with: a proper floor to practice on, proper Flamenco shoes (which are very specific to Flamenco), and a mirror. From there start with basic posture (postura), arm movement (braceo), hand movement (floreo), and footwork (zapateado), then commit to practice (yes, practice is necessary if you wish to advance in Flamenco), and finally begin to familiarize yourself with the basic rhythms. Voila! You are now building a strong foundation!

A fun way to explore the art of Flamenco dance is with the A to Z's of Flamenco where I will talk about many different aspects of Flamenco dance which make Flamenco so unique.

My next article will be exploring the art of Flamenco dance in The A to Z's of Flamenco Dance series. So let's start down the exciting path of Flamenco together right now, because if not now, then when?

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