"The novelty is the sensitivity of the artist." - Azorin
Spain is one of the most popular holidays destinations for Britons! Let us conjure up an image: Costa del sol, sun, sea, tapas and flamenco: that's what you can expect in the land of the sun. It really is the best!
Here's an overview of the traditional dances originating in Spain and where to learn them.
What is the Traditional Spanish Dance?
Flamenco is an emotional dance between man and woman that is popular across the world, however, it originated in southern Spain and still remains a traditional art form in cities like Barcelona, Granada and Seville among others. Plus it is the dance we always think about when we imagine dancers in Spain!
It all began in the Andalusia region over two hundred years ago, and Flamenco is still practiced today in all regions of Spain. Yet, the roots of this dance style are so multicultural that so many other nations have embraced this dance and founded their own Flamenco dance academies. This means that Flamenco dancing, in general, has evolved over time and taken on many different identities and elements of culture from the globe.
The art form is made up of three main parts: guitar playing, song and dance - and none of these elements is left in the background as they are all as important as eachother.
It was said to be gypsies, or the Roma people, who brought flamenco dancing to rest of Spain, from its roots in Andalusia... it can't be a coincidence that the French Gypsy Kings (who sing mostly in Spanish) perform so many flamenco style compositions!
You can look up the history of flamenco to find all sorts of documentation and many an old performance photo from centuries past! Don't be too disappointed if it is black and white - you will have to imagine the beautiful colours of the flamenco dresses!
How to Flamenco Dance
Flamenco dance, or baile, is an expressive, Spanish dance form that can be a solo dance or danced by a couple. The flamenco is characterized by actions such as percussive footwork, hand clapping, and intricate hand, arm, and body movements. The dance performance is usually accompanied by a guitar player and a singer.
Flamenco's roots cover Spanish, Indian, and Arabi cultures and has been influenced by each. The distinctive stomp and sweeping arms are what make it so recognisable, not to mention the bold dresses for the woman dancer!
There are no set steps that a flamingo dancer must follow, but they will express and perform according to the music and the emotion they are feeling which makes each dance and dancer unique and special.
Start taking online belly dance classes today.
What are the other Different Spanish Dances?
Spanish dances are renowned for the variety of styles that suit everyone's taste!
Despite our belief that flamenco is the dance of Spain, dancers from the country say that there isn't just one genre of Spanish dance, but rather a multitude of options. Regardless of the student's preferences, anyone can take part in this form of artistic expression which is so widely celebrated around the world.
Here is a short list of the most popular styles of Spanish dance, starting with the popular and beautiful Flamenco dance mentioned above:
- Paso doble,
The budding dancer can also learn traditional dances from specific regions of Spain: the Jota Aragonesa dance from northern Spain, Sevillana from the Seville region and the Zambra dance from Granada, Andalusia.
Be careful not to confuse Spanish dances and the Latin dances!
Indeed, Latin dances originate from Hispanic countries. For example, Cuban salsa or the Argentine tango is specific to those countries. Studying Spanish dance not only enables you to learn more about Mediterranean music, but also to integrate some dance steps from some Latin American dances.
Students, in order to choose the best dance style, need to take into account their abilities as a dancer. While someone wanting to utilise their sensuality should opt for flamenco (with much reliance on emotive hands and rhythmic steps), someone longing to use their talents as a musician should go for castanet dance.
In short, when it comes to Spanish dances, you have a wide range to choose from as a man or woman!
In the US, you have country dance or Madison dance to choose from.
The History of Spanish Dance
Nation of art and culture, Spain, like the UK, is soaked in history!
How old is Spanish dancing?
It was in the 15th century that most Spanish regions began to create their own dances: at that time, there were more than 200 different types of dance in Catalonia!
In the 18th century, during the reign of the Bourbon kings, Spanish culture started to spread throughout the world and Spanish dancers were finally able to have their artistic talents recognised. Later, it was the gypsies who developed the most famous dance style in Spanish history: flamenco., which we discovered earlier in this piece.
The evolution of Spanish dance, however, slowed down during Franco's dictatorship, who banned any expression of regional culture (music, dance, language, etc.). Fortunately, today, Spaniards are free to dance to whatever they please!
Spanish and Latin dances have seen a surge in popularity in the 21st century, thanks to the emergence of Latin pop. Before you develop into Latin pop, however, take a look at the origins and development of some Spanish dance styles (solo and couple styles) to immerse yourself in Spanish culture!
African dance has an equally rich culture to offer.
Where Can You Learn Spanish Style Dancing?
Spanish Dance Schools and Associations
To learn to dance like a Spaniard, nothing beats a professional dance class!
Through an accredited dance school, students can participate in classes supervised by qualified native teachers.
Students can also learn this new art form through a Spanish dance association!
In the spirit of good fun, associations welcome both children and adults, whatever their level: it is, therefore, the perfect way to learn dance with your partner or friends. Nevertheless, we recommend you have at least a beginner level for these classes, as associations typically focus on basic music courses.
Here are some schools and associations in the UK offering Spanish dance classes:
- Salsa Freedom, Manchester
- Ballet and Spanish Dance Academy, Leeds
- Flamenco Dance Classes with Debbie, Norwich
- Ilusion Flamenca,
- Spanish Dance Society, London,
- Flamenco Dance Classes, Cambridge
- Salsa Souls, Bristol
- Latin Roots, Edinburgh
- Salsa Buena Dance Classes, Cardiff
- Nu Salsa in Belfast, Northern Ireland
(Also see how to take ballet, salsa or flamenco dance lessons online from the comfort of your own home!)
Naturally, there are a number of Spanish dance schools and groups across the UK and Ireland thanks to the growing influence of Mediterranean culture in recent years. To find courses in school, it will also be necessary to live in a big metropolis. If you live in southern England, then you'll have numerous options accessible with London connections.
Private Spanish Dance Lessons
Having a bolero or flamenco teacher just for you is the dream for dancing newbies! You can train on your own or as a couple.
To find a choreographer to master Spanish dance steps, generally, people use word-of-mouth or go through the classifieds of dance teachers from dance centres.
Nevertheless, it is still possible to find a choreographer tailored to your needs through online classifieds. Here, students can access a wide range of teachers and can even take an trial dance class to try out different Spanish styles. In addition, lovers of Spanish culture can take online dance lessons via Skype from their own living room. So, be photo ready!
If you are planning on doing so you may want some authentic Spanish music playing in the background! But, will you dress up as the part and imagine you are a dancer from Seville??
With Superprof, a flamenco lesson costs on average £30 per hour!
Price, type, level: there are many criteria to consider when looking for a dance instructor on Superprof!
Whether it's Spanish baile or oriental dance, finding the right teacher is key.
Spanish Dance Music
Essentially a gypsy dance, flamenco illustrates its roots through its incredibly unique style of music. On the guitar, the flamenco musician plays to a fast and jerky beat that coincides with the performer's dance steps.
Have a listen to some of the most popular flamenco songs:
- "Para ayudarme a llorar" by Antonio Mairena,
- "Juncales" by Niño Ricardo,
- "Tanguillo" by El Niño de Almadén,
- "Que lastima de gitana" by Beni de Cadiz,
- "Tiene mi niña un balcon" by Manolos Vargas,
- "Sin cédula ni licencia" by Pericón De Cádiz,
- "Tientos" by Aurelio Sellés de Cádiz,
- "No hables mal de nadie" by Tio Gregorio el Borrico,
- "Alegria" by Ramón Montoya,
- "En un verde prado" by Rafael Romero,
- "Me valgo de mi saber" by La Perla de Cadiz.
And why not take flamenco guitar lessons to improve your music skills and also warm up those hands?
Paso Doble Music
A dance performed during bullfights, paso doble's music is particularly catchy and lively. Most of the time, dance teachers use recordings of popular songs, but it isn't unheard of for dance troupes, for example during a dance competition, to use live orchestras.
Here are some legendary songs from the paso doble:
- "Marcha a la manoleria" by F.A. Barbieri,
- "Currito de la Macarena" by Fernandez,
- "La Belle Signorine" by Max Elloy,
- "Ole Torero" by Luis Mariano,
- "Montevideo" by Rina Ketty,
- "Muchacha" by Rose Avril,
- "Un Pasodoble por favor" by Mika Wolkan,
- "Brisas del Moncayo" by Abel Moreno,
- "En er mundo" by Juan Quintero Munoz,
- "Maestranza Sevillana" by Pedro Morales Munoz.
Why not introduce yourself to Spanish dance by having a little listen to some Spanish dance music. Indeed, the choice of music is crucial to successful dance classes: a good song tends to motivate people and make them improve at a faster rate as they can conjure up an image of traditional Spanish dancers!
More of a fan of Irish music? Try your luck at Irish dancing.
What do You Need to enjoy Spanish Dance
Finally, the last criterion to bear in mind when making your decision: the gear requested by the teacher for when you perform (or baile!)!
Spanish dance focuses on the beauty of the dancer's gestures and the aesthetics: unlike contemporary or modern dance, it is essential to acquire very specifically, and sometimes quite expensive, gear for performance.
With regard to flamenco dancing, women have the option of wearing a full skirt, ornately decorated at the bottom, and a light top, often in old or vintage lace, or alternatively full traditional Spanish costume. Colours are typically black on a red background or red on a black background and black shoes with a hard outer sole are worn. It is not common to see non-striking colours like white in typical flamenco dancing costume.
A woman can also wear accessories like sequinned flowers, shawls or fans!
For the paso doble, the clothes are quite similar. Men must wear a comfortable black suit and hard-soled shoes (again in it is very rare to see white suits on men).
Dance schools may provide the necessary accessories themselves, but nothing beats your own gear to be able to practise between classes!
So, get out a red dress and some black shoes and awaken your Spanish sensuality with flamenco dance!
Just like Bollywood dance, certain accessories are integral to the dance.