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15 Things you didn’t know about Flamenco

June 2, 2022

Female dancer in a white and black Flamenco dress with ruffles, in a traditional flamenco dance pose.

This year’s hotly anticipated Flamenco Festival, back for the first time since 2019, celebrates rising stars and Flamenco legends. From traditional flair to flamenco with a twist!

Five images in one: from left to right, a woman lifts her foot in a heeled shoe as a man claps; a group of near naked men lift another man above their heads; a group of flamenco dancers in long, fringed shawls; a solo dancer against a Spanish landscape; a woman in red in the midst of a group of dancers raises her arms overhead.
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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Flamenco Festival

© Dotdotdance.

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With our annual Flamenco Festival kicking off this June, discover a further 15 things you may not already know about this unique art-form!

1. It is widely believed that Flamenco actually originates from India! The roots, though somewhat mysterious, seem to lie in the Roma migration from Rajasthan (northwest India) to Spain between the 9th and 14th centuries.

2. Flamenco dance is called ‘Baile’, while a flamenco dancer is known as a ‘Bailor’ (male) and ‘Bailaora’ (female).

A flamenco dancer in his early twenties, with shoulder-length black hair and a fierce expression, steps onto one leg, flicking the other foot up behind him. He opens his short silver jacket to reveal his slim torso in white vest. Long silky fringes run down the length of his black trousers, and his shoes have three-inch metal heels.
El Yiyo y su troupe
A group of women step forward, looking out with sombre expressions, one raising her hand in appeal. They wear floor-length dresses with patterns, lace and ruffles. To either side, male musicians sit, watching the dancers.
Gala Flamenca © Manu García

3. The typical Flamenco outfit is called the ‘Traje de Flamenca’. Dresses are said to have a guitar shaped body, to enhance a woman’s figure. Heels are an essential and range from 4 – 7cm in height. They can also have special nails in the sole to enhance sound.

4. ‘Duende’ is a term used to describe the ‘soul’ of Flamenco and a heightened sense of emotion that overtakes you. The term also describes an elf or goblin-like creature in Spanish mythology, where it is derived from.

5. ‘Palos’, which also means stick or branch refers to the different traditional music forms of Flamenco. There are more than 50 Palos, from Algerías to Bulerías.

A group of seven male flamenco dancers gather on and around a wooden bench, watching and clapping as one of their number performs, a red ruffled skirt flaring out. They all wear full-length dresses with layers of ruffles, their long black hair parted in the centre and smoothed down.
Manuel Linan - VIVA
A dancer in a scarlet flamenco dress, with hair in a long braid down the back, ruffles tumbling onto the floor in a train, stands with her back to us, facing a dimly lit line of nine seated musicians.
María Pagés © David Ruano

6. Castanets are not part of traditional Flamenco; they are an element that has been added to enhance finger snapping. These wooden percussion instruments are more than 3,000 years old and over time have become an iconic symbol of Spanish Flamenco.

7. Flamenco is made up of four elements: Cante (voice), Baile (dance), Toque (guitar) and the Jaleo, which is roughly translates to mean ‘hell raising’ and involves the handclapping, foot stomping and shouts of encouragement.

8. Silverio Franconetti Aguila, born in Seville in 1831, is considered a legendary singer of Flamenco and opened the famous Café Silverios. It became known as the top ‘Café Cantante’ in Spain during a golden age of Flamenco, where he invited only the most talented singers to perform and promoted only the purest forms of the art.

Eight men, all in black polo neck tops and trousers, feet bare, stand in a street in front of a whitewashed wall. Seven face to the right, in identical pose, hands at their sides, heads turned towards us. One dancer stag leaps in the other direction, arms lifted above his head, knees bent up.
Compañia Jesus Carmona © Luka Radikovic
Flamenco dancer Paula Comitre arches backwards towards us
Paula Comitre - Recital

9. The ‘Cajón’ is another popular percussion instrument, originating from Peru, sometimes used in Flamenco performances. Legendary Spanish Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía discovered the Cajón during one of his tours in America in the late 1970s and described the sound as ‘restrained to Flamenco’.

10. From 1920 to 1955, many Flamenco shows took place in bullrings and theatres, and became known as ‘Opera Flamenca’. A reason why this name became popular was because opera paid much lower rates of tax than Flamenco shows, so was more economical.

11. One of Spain’s greatest writers, Federico Garcia Lorca, was a keen ambassador of the art-form. Two of his most important poetic works, ‘Poema del Cante Jondo’ and ‘Romancero Gitano’ show Lorca’s fascination with Flamenco and appreciation of Spanish folk culture.

A black and white photo of a man with a handsome, weathered face, curly black hair falling to his shoulders. He wears a blazer over a print shirt and holds a guitar.
Tomatito © Javier Salas
Two men bare chested onstage. One man kneels up, facing us, the other shielding the face of the second man, who sits on the floor.
En Compañía: Daniel Ramos & Víctor Martín - Boreal

12. Rhythmic handclapping, known as ‘Palmas’, is an important part of Flamenco. There are two types: ‘Palmas Sordas’ and ‘Palmas Abiertas’ which use different parts of the hand to produce different sounds.

13. Under the ‘Franco’ regime, Flamenco gained the status of a Spanish national symbol, while secret police simultaneously repressed any form of cultural dissent in lower-class neighbourhoods, illegalizing many Flamenco concerts and gatherings.

A woman stands in a courtyard of lush greenery, lifting one hand to a vine. Roses are tucked into her long wavy brown hair, loosely pulled back from her face. A large patterned scarf with a long fringe is draped over her raised arm, and with the other hand she holds a red fan open across her body.
Estrella Morente © Bernado Doral
Rocio Márquez and Bronquio © Lhaura Raín
Rocio Márquez and Bronquio © Lhaura Raín

14. In classical music theory, ‘Compás’ is the word used to describe the rhythm or time signature in Flamenco. Flamenco uses three basic counts or measures: Binary, Ternary and the (unique to flamenco) Twelve-Beat Cycle.

15. The fastest flamenco dancer ever recorded danced 1,274 taps in one minute.

Los Voluble © Oscar Romero Nocturama
Los Voluble © Oscar Romero Nocturama

Flamenco Festival returns to Sadler’s Wells from Tuesday 21 June – Saturday 2 July 2022.

For more information and tickets: