A fiery and passionate dance, Flamenco originated during the early 16th century in Andalusia, in southern Spain. Originally, Flamenco was a folk dance that the poor or oppressed would participate in as a musical outlet; later, Flamenco became known primarily as a gypsy dance. In fact, it wasn't until the latter half of the 19th century that the Spaniards started recognizing and accepting Flamenco. During the 19th century, dancers began performing Flamenco in cafes as a form of entertainment, and the dance became very popular.
Flamenco is a tripartite art that includes dancing, singing, and guitar music. Rhythmic punctuation, such as hand clapping, is also considered a crucial component. One of the unique characteristics of Flamenco is that the dance is mostly based on improvisation. Inspiration for the stomping feet and fervent passion comes from the music, guitar, and clapping, allowing the dancer or bailaor(a) to express himself/herself according to the music. The bailaor typically stands still for a few minutes to take in the music and starts clapping before beginning the dance. Regardless of gender, the role of the dancer is to interpret the music for the audience.
The second component of Flamenco is the canto or song. The canto involves four different cultures: Gypsies, Moors or Arabs, Jews, and the indigenous Andalusians. There are also three forms of canto. Grandeor hondo, which means "grand" or "deep", is intense and tragic in tone. Intermedio, or intermediate, is less serious and sometimes incorporates Oriental melodies. Finally, Pequeño, or small, is characterized by light, bright songs of nature and love.
Along with dancing and singing, what is mostly associated with Flamenco is the guitar. In the past, the guitarist was seen as subservient in its role next to the singer, but as Flamenco became more popular, so did the guitar. In fact, the role of the guitar became so popular that competition to be employed as the guitarist was fierce. New techniques were developed by guitarists in order to outdo the competition through tricks and other acts of showmanship, such as playing with a gloved hand or playing the guitar while holding it behind their head. A guitarist had to be able to pick up the different styles of song and dance, as well as adapt to the different styles of singers.
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