How to listen to a flamenco song (cante) and dance to it?
As dancers, the song is very important to us! Because we accompany and respond to the song with our moves; we express it with dynamics and feelings.
Here’s a simple way of listening to a Tangos, by a singer I love, Carmen Linares.
Listen to what is happening, what the sequence is.
Get to know 4 flamenco terminologies which help you describe what is happening.
- 𝐒𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐝𝐚 𝐝𝐞 𝐆𝐮𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐚 – When the guitarist starts off.
- 𝐒𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐝𝐚 𝐝𝐞 𝐂𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐞- When the singer first starts off, creating the mood.
- 𝐋𝐞𝐭𝐫𝐚- The actual song itself (think of it like a short poem)
- 𝐒𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐝𝐚 𝐝𝐞 𝐁𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐞- When the dancer first makes his/her entry.
I am not dancing in this video, but if I were, I would make my Salida de Baile, along with the singer’s salida. When get to know the flamenco song, you can structure your dance to it.
Here is a a glimpse of my Salida in this video of a workshop to pure beginners. A simple and achievable Salida to learn.
What are Flamenco songs about?
Flamenco songs, like any song, can express many things – personal feelings, a story recounted briefly, a situation, a place, a memory etc and etc.
There are also many different styles of flamenco, and as you journey through the different palos (styles), you’ll notice that there are some themes and feeling associated with those styles.
For example, Alegrías is a style named after ‘joy’, so as a flamenco dancer, singer or guitarist, you’d be interpreting what joy feels to you.
A Soleá on the other hand, is a slower pace style, that feels weightier in its themes of solitude, sadness or pain. So again, you’ll be reaching within yourself and your life experience to express how this feels to you.
Here’s the recording of the Tangos de Color de Rosa sung by Carmen Linares. I’ve written the Spanish letra followed by my rough translation, so you can get to know what the letra says.
Letra Tangos de Color de Rosa
El morito es un flor
que al palacio quiso entrar
por ver a la reina mora
la belleza que tendra.
los moritos por delante
los moritos por detrás.
Que al palacio de la reina
el morito quiso entrar.
The little Moorish boy is a flower
longing to enter the Palace
to see the Moorish Queen
for all the beauty she must have.
The Moorish boys are in front.
The Moorish boy are behind.
Into the Palace of the Queen
the little Moorish boy longed to enter.
How to understand or relate to Flamenco Song/Cante?
It’s great if you can speak Spanish as that opens a very direct door to understanding what the flamenco letra might say.
BUT, no worries if you are not a Spanish-speaker! Take the initiative to find out what the lyrics say. These days, you can simply Google translate the lyrics, and get the gist.
Just hey, be aware that Google, as with any automatic translator will not be totally accurate, and sometimes might even toss up an odd translation or so. (For eg, Google translates ‘flamenco palo’ into ‘flamenco stick’, which of course, may leave people scratching their heads!
If you can have an idea of what the letra says, it enables you to go deeper into your flamenco (as opposed to, say, just dancing and moving to steps and rhythm, per se). Would you not want to know, go deeper and grow your journey?
Ok, back to the Tangos de Color de Rosa
It’s a very visual poem to me, that evokes nature, the Alhambra and Granada’s Moorish history. The child is likened to a flower longing to enter the Palace. The Moorish Queen is said to be so beautiful, the people desired to catch a glimpse of her!
If you’ve seen the Alhambra castle in Granada set on the hill and surrounded by amazing gardens, I think the word ‘Palacio’ and ‘Reina Mora/Moorish Queen’ brings up images of the the Alhambra and an era long time ago, of royalty in Moorish Spain.
Here a video I took while I was in the Generalife gardens of the Alhambra, so you can visualise this part of Spain.
GROWING YOUR FLAMENCO PATH(S)
I did this video on the spur of the moment, to help my budding guitarist friends get a simple idea of flamenco cante. Let me know if these ‘listening together’ videos help you?
Here are suggestions on how you can journey into flamenco, at the different stages you find yourself:
(1) If you are a beginner, besides the dance, start to appreciate the song and music, and have an idea of what the letra (lyrics) are about.
(2) If you already have some experience and would like to grow your flamenco, get to know flamenco cante, whether you are a dancer, singer or guitarist.
WHERE, HOW TO LEARN FLAMENCO
In Singapore and online
You can join my classes in-person when I’m in Singapore, or online when I’m back in Spain.
Learn Flamenco from Spain – online
1.Video on-demand courses on how to dance to live flamenco song and guitar.
At your time and pace. I’ve produced these courses with established maestros from Spain. This is suitable for you if you already have some experience of flamenco)
2. Live flamenco song classes
With my flamenco song maestro, Manuel Soto.
You can take advantage of digital tech these days, to learn directly from the source.