In this second part, I thought it would be helpful to explain exactly what Flamenco is and isn't. After two decades of performing, it has become clear that sometimes there are misconceptions about what it is my colleagues and I should be doing. I want to not only help you become a discerning Flamenco connoisseur, but I also want to give you some language to help you communicate with the artists you might be hiring.
I think the easiest thing is to show you some videos so, here we go!
First and foremost, these two videos are examples of what a real Flamenco performance looks like:
The number of live musicians will depend on your event and your budget, but at a bare minimum you will have a dancer accompanied by a guitarist and hopefully you will consider a singer too, as the cante, or singing, is priority number one in authentic Flamenco.
Please note that Flamenco runs the entire gamut of human emotion, from the sadness of the Solea danced by Juana Amaya in the first video, to the joy of the Alegrias de Cadiz danced by Patricia Guerrero in the second video. Loneliness and Isolation. Happiness and Romance. You can have it all in a Flamenco performance, so don't worry about whether or not Flamenco will match the mood of your event. It goes with everything.
Also, there are both male and female dancers in Flamenco, just as there are both male and female singers and musicians. So feel free to ask, for example, if you would like a male/female combo of dancers. However, Flamenco is mainly a soloist art form, so please DO NOT expect this:
I do not mean that we do not have partnered or group dances, I just mean that they are not the norm. We can have a partnered or group dance, and for shows we often do, but it will likely be a choreographed Flamenco number similar to the ones in the first two videos, or it will be the Sevillanas folk dance:
Now let's get to a type of performance that is very common to see, but isn't necessarily a Flamenco performance. This is what we call Rumba Flamenca. The most famous example of Rumberos or Rumba musicians, are The Gypsy Kings:
Rumba is great. The Gypsy Kings are awesome Rumberos. What is important to know when hiring entertainment is that there are Rumbero musicians and there are Flamenco musicians and they are not necessarily one in the same. I have worked with amazing Rumberos who do not really know how to accompany traditional Flamenco dance, just as I have worked with Flamencos who have had to turn down requests for covers of the Gypsy Kings. So if you want a party that's full of Gypsy King style music, you need to specify that when you initially contact a potential hire.
By the way, as I said before, I work with both kinds so feel free to contact me if you are planning an event.
Finally, I need to specify one more Spanish style of music that is often mistaken for Flamenco, but isn't. That would be the traditional folkloric style Coplas:
So if your mamá wants to hear something made famous by Lola Flores, Rocío Jurado, Rocío Dúrcal, or Manolo Escobar, do not assume your chosen Flamenco artists will be performing these pieces! Make sure to ask if they can and if they cannot, ask them to refer you to someone. If I know that someone who is looking to hire me, would really prefer a show that mainly features this type of music, I will refer them to artists I know who specialize in these songs. If they only want one or two songs in this style, I can often hire someone to bring along with me. Most Flamencos should be willing to do the same so make sure to ask!
One more note on song requests. Please do not drunkenly demand Alejandro Sanz or David Bisbal from your Flamenco musicians. These two artists are talented, but they are pop musicians and their music is not even remotely Flamenco. I don't care that Bisbal named a song "Buleria" after the Flamenco rhythm. It's not Flamenco and it most certainly is not a Bulerias. You do not know what a pet peeve of mine this drunken request is. I have no qualms in saying it--THIS IS NOT FLAMENCO:
Before I go though, I have one more important piece I really need you to know--don't ever expect me to show up with a flower in my mouth. That is not real Flamenco. That is for Hollywood.
What did you learn about Flamenco that you didn't know before? Feel free to comment below.
If you're a fellow Flamenco and you have additional insights you would like to share, please join in the discussion below as well.
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