Overview of Flamenco

Flamenco is the passionate music and dance from southern Spain.  This art form is a mixture of the music of all the many cultures that have played important roles in Andalusia, the most important being the Arabic, Jewish, Gypsy, and Spanish Christian.

During the Spanish Inquisition, the Kingdom of Castilla decided to rid Spain of all its minority groups, targeting mostly the Arabs, Jews, and Gypsies (who originated in India and Pakistan). These people converted to Christianity, exited the country, or fled to the mountainous regions of Spain, where they formed bands of fugitives.  It is believed that flamenco developed from this group of persecuted people who lived as outcasts from Spanish society. Flamenco became the means by which they expressed both the anguish of injustice and the joy of love and life.

Present-day flamenco consists of four basic parts:  singing (cante), dancing (baile), guitar playing (toque), and jaleo (hand clapping and vocal encouragement).  Each of these art forms can stand alone, but the complete flamenco experience includes all of these integral parts.

Flamenco dance and music can range from the very light, upbeat forms to the profound or deep forms through which the singer tells of lost love, death, and sorrow.

The traditional rapid-fire footwork, graceful hands and arms, and snappy turns characterize flamenco dance, which is done by both men and women.  Castanets, fans, shawls, capes, and Spanish hats are also commonly incorporated into the dance.

Resources

Flamenco Glossary
Flamenco.org