Flamenco dance is considered by many to be the world's 2nd most difficult dance form, 2nd only to Indian classical dance. Its history can be traced back to the time when the Gypsies left their homeland in India, traveled through Egypt, Europe and arrived in Spain around 1492, right around the time the Arabic peoples from Morocco who had occupied Spain for almost 800 years left.
This blending of the Indian, Spanish and Arabic cultures, along with several other cultures, gave birth to Flamenco. While dance is only one part of Flamenco (with the rhythms and singing being the core of Flamenco), since I am a dancer, this is the part I will focus on here.
While many of you might have seen Flamenco on Dancing with the Stars and other programs, what you more accurately have seen is theatrical dance with Flamenco "technique", not Flamenco. Remember, for a dancer to dance Flamenco he/she must dance to Flamenco rhythms. These amazing dancers from these television shows might make Flamenco dance look easy, but it is not. Flamenco dance technique requires extreme body control on several levels: engaged core, smooth and rapid weight placement and shifting, balance, muscle control and communication (that is, communication between the dancer's body and their brain).
Flamenco dancers move body, head, arms, hands, legs and feet very often in opposing directions and all at the same time; and all while keeping in rhythm!
Keep in mind that all Flamenco dancers must start out with a strong foundation. Bypassing a strong foundation not only leads to a lack of ability to succeed in Flamenco dance, but also may result in injury yes injury. Which is why all my students get the "safety speech" repeated to them until they can repeat it back to me. (Yes, adults too!)
If you focus on your foundation, making your initial goal one of solidly learning the basics, you can easily progress through beginning level classes all the way to master classes. But doing this requires patience and this is where the girls/boys are separated from women/men. It seems everyone wants to graduate before going to school. If you can maintain patience with the tedium of foundation basics, you will indeed be on the path to becoming a Flamenco dancer of quality.
Here are the basic steps to a strong foundation in what I consider the general order of importance:
- Learn the history of Flamenco.
- Start learning the rhythms (start with a basic Tangos Flamenco not Argentine) so you can recognize it when hearing it and be able to clap your hands to it.
- Learn basic technique from an instructor who believes in the value of a strong foundation.
- Be sure to have the proper tools in place (correct shoes, practice floor and mirror).
- Practice every day yes, every day even if only a few minutes.
But even with all this "work", Flamenco dance is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding dance forms. Not to mention the great costumes. I could probably write an entire A to Z series just on the costumes alone!
Here are two great resources for those of you that want to learn some accurate history about Flamenco: "Song of the Outcast by Robin Totten" (Amadeus Press May 1, 2003, ISBN-10: 1574670794, ISBN-13: 978-1574670790) and Tony Gatlif's gypsy film "Latcho Drom" (1993). I wish you an exciting journey!! And feel free to ask any questions I'd love to see you get off on the right foot (pun intended!)