story by Linda Machado for

The A to Z's of Flamenco Dance: J is for Jaleo

The A to Z's of Flamenco Dance: J is for Jaleo

Jaleo (hah-LAY-oh) is a Spanish noun that means "uproar".  In Flamenco, jaleo is an important part of the relationship between the performers and between the performers and audience.  

In this country, most audiences sit quietly through a performance (Flamenco or otherwise) and then clap and shout "bravo" at the conclusion of the performance.  In a Flamenco performance, it is customary to shout your bravos during the performance, clapping and becoming part of the show while it is going on.  When the performance is over, it's just over.  No clapping, no bravos.  Why? Because Flamenco (as opposed to theatrical Flamenco) is really not a performance, it's a communal activity connecting performers and audience.  Everyone in the room is a participant, an unusual concept for many audiences.

At a recent local Flamenco performance, in the audience was a well-known Flamenco visiting from Spain.  During the performance he shouted out jaleos.  He was promptly escorted from the room for "creating a nuisance".  How embarrassing for him  -- he simply was following perfect Flamenco custom! 

Jaleos raise the excitement level of the performance for everyone, especially the performers. Knowing that they have been able to "reach" the people in the room encourages them to put even more of themselves into their performance.  So, when you are attending a Flamenco performance, and/or when you are performing yourself, shout some jaleos -- it will raise the energy level of the performance and make you a true part of the show.

To get you started, here is a short list of some appropriate Jaleos:

Agua  -- Water! It's so hot I need water!
Asi se baila  -- That's dancing!
Eso es  -- That's it!
Guapo/Guapa!  -- Handsome! Good looking!
Hassa  -- Great!
Ole! or Ale!
Toma  -- Take it!
Toma que toma  -- Take it! Take it!
Vamos  -- Let's go!
Vamos alla -- Go there!
Vamo' ya! -- Let's go!
Azucar -- Sugar
Dale  -- Give it (informal)
Eso  -- That
Tenga -- Hold it (formal)
Vamanos -- Let's go
Ven -- Come on!  (informal)
Venga -- Come on!  (formal)

Here are two examples of how jaleo is used as part of a Flamenco performance:

In this first video, you will hear jaleo right from the beginning and throughout the performance. Right around 2:00 the jaleos really get going!

In this second video not only will you see some great dancing by masters of their craft, you will hear jaleos throughout.

A word to the wise performer:  always be nice to your fellow performers.  Why?  Well, it's nice to be nice just to be nice; however, not being nice can reward you with some unexpected surprises.

Jaleos can be like a double-edged sword.  For example:

I remember a performance in which I was seated in the cuadro (group) while another dancer took her turn dancing.  She danced, we did jaleos.  However... earlier in the day she was quite rude to one of the other dancers who just happened to be from Sevilla.  During the dancer's performance the dancer from Sevilla gave some pretty "creative" (insulting) jaleos causing the audience (who understood Spanish) to break out robustly laughing all during the dancer's (who did not speak Spanish) performance.  What goes around comes around!

So, jaleos can be great additions to your performance tool kit; don't be afraid to use them, and use them wisely! 

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