Flamenco Dance Forms

by Allison Millard

Alegrias: A lively dance that originates in the jotas of Cadiz–traditional folk music of Aragon, brought to the Andalusian town by soldiers during the War of Independence in the early 19th century. This style is characterized by its rich guitar accompaniment, the intricate dancing, demanding rhythms, and lively sound.

Bulerías: This developed, like soleares, from a simple style. However, unlike soleares, it has a fast and lively rhythm–indeed, the fastest in all flamenco–and it provides enormous scope from improvisation on the part of dancers, singers, and guitarists. Wild, frenzied, and lively, it nevertheless contains the germ of sorrow that is almost always present in flamenco.

Cantinas: A distant cousin of the Alegrias, but with very different tonalities and bouncier, more compact lyrics.

Seguiriyas: Another name for seguiriyas was playeras–from placidera, meaning “hired mourner.” The lyrics often allude to death, suggesting that its origin may have been in the primitive wails for the dead. Indeed, the guitar accompaniment evokes the sound of bells tolling.

Soleares: One of the basic cantes, the soleares is the perfect form of cante Flamenco, where beauty and depth of feeling are in harmony. Its rhythm (twelve beats to the bar) has its origin in a simple dance called jaleo, consisting of three beats to the bar, with the emphasis on the third.

Taranto: Song and dance from the province of Almeria. The Flamenco dance possesses two extremes: the profundity of a seguiriya, a sole, or a taranto, and the wild, uncontained gaiety of a bulerías.

Tientos-Tangos: Cante y Baile Festero-from the villages along the Atlantic seaboard near Cadiz. The name comes from the old dances of that region, which produced three different flamenco styles: tientos, tangos, and tanguillo. In the tientos, the singing used to be a simple statement, uncomplicated in style. Over time it became more serious and developed into a very profound style. The rhythm that the guitar provides is founded on a basic 4/4 pattern, although it is continuously enriched by subtle accentuations on different beats or off-beats. In contrast to tientos, tangos is sparkling and sensual.

Martinete: An austere and rhythmic interpretation one of flamenco’s most profound and oldest forms. The rhythm and song pertain to the Seguiriya, but it is not accompanied by music (guitar). Both the Seguiriya and the Martinete can be defined as searching for hope in a hopeless situation, or believing when there are no longer reasons to believe in life, thus, confronting death.

Jaleo: A joyous yet painful celebration of life, family, marriage, etc. It is usually danced and sung by gypsies in festive gatherings. It expresses the sense of vitality and joy of life, yet it contains a somber and mysterious quality. The Jaleo preaches that life has moments of wonder and joy, but that tragedy may be waiting just around the corner.

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