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Photographer's Note

El baile flamenco is a dance form known for its emotional intensity, proud carriage, expressive use of the arms and rhythmic stomping of the feet.

As danced at a professional level, it is a highly technical dance form requiring years of study. The music itself is complex, and the footwork is lightning fast and must be executed with extraordinary precision. In addition, the dancer may have to dance while using props such as castanets, shawls and fans.

Professional flamenco dancers are usually older than other dancers, and have a longer career. In other dance forms, performers turn professional in their teens to take advantage of youthful strength and fitness. In traditional flamenco, young people are not considered to have the emotional maturity to adequately convey the "duende" (soul) of the genre. Many flamenco dancers hit their peak in their thirties and will continue to perform into their fifties and beyond.

As with any dance form, many different styles of flamenco have developed.

In its most authentic form, flamenco can be seen danced informally at gypsy weddings and celebrations in Spain. There is less virtuoso technique in gypsy flamenco, but the music and steps are fundamentally the same. The arms are noticeably different to classical flamenco, curving around the head and body rather than extending, often with a bent elbow.

"Flamenco puro" is considered the form of performance flamenco closest to its gypsy origins. In this style, the dance is always performed solo, and is improvised rather than choreographed. Some purists frown on castanets (even though they can be seen in many early 20th century photos of flamenco dancers).

The type of dance most Europeans would call "flamenco" is a commercialized style, developed as a spectacle for tourists. To fill the stage and add variety, group dances are included, and even solos are more likely to be choreographed to maintain quality. The frilly, voluminous spotted dresses are derived from a style of dress worn for the annual Feria in Seville (the original is actually too tight to dance in!).

"Classical flamenco" is the style used in some Spanish flamenco dance companies, and maintained by some to be "authentic". It is characterized by a proud, upright carriage - for the women, the back is often held in a marked back bend. Unlike gypsy flamenco, there is little movement of the hips, the body is tightly held and the arms are long, like a ballet dancer. In fact many of the dancers in these companies have trained in contemporary dance or ballet as well as flamenco.

"Flamenco nuevo" is the new wave in flamenco, characterized by pared-down costumes (the men often dance bare-chested, and the women in plain jersey dresses). Props such as castanets, fans and shawls are rarely, if ever, used. Dances are choreographed and include influences from other dance styles.

Image taken in Granada.

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Additional Photos by Maria Blanca Gomez (maria) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 214 W: 21 N: 487] (3288)
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