Flamenco Guitarist accompanies Flamenco Dancer

I work with flamenco dancers a great deal and provide here some observations on the skill of accompanying flamenco dance.

Flamenco Dancer and Guitarist for Spanish Party

The way flamenco dancers work is very different to almost all other forms of dance. The flamenco dancer does not dance to a piece of music and that must sound quite strange to anyone who is not familiar with how flamenco performances are put together.

In just about every other kind of dance that I am aware of the dancers select a piece of music that they like and then go about building a choreography around that piece of music.

In flamenco the opposite is the case.

The flamenco dancer is boss so to speak and the flamenco guitarist is there to accompany the dancer.

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In practice what this means is that the flamenco dancer wants to feel free to improvise and make changes to the dance as they go along. The guitarist is watching very carefully and in my case also listening very carefully.

This is because the flamenco footwork is an essential element of this kind of dance and as such the guitarist will want to play rhythms in accordance with the dancer’s footwork.

That absolutely does not mean to say that the flamenco guitarist will always produce exactly the same rhythmical sections that the dancer is producing.

The dancer may often want to produce a counter rhythm and as such will want the guitarist to maintain the straight rhythm precisely so that the counter rhythm can be heard.

Likewise flamenco dancers tend to produce very complex patterns with their feet and they often prefer the guitarist to keep things simple which effectively gives them a kind of security on which to build their intricate footwork.

 

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Flamenco dancers also want to feel free to either develop a section or to abbreviate their dance according to their mood: sometimes they feel great with a particular section of the dance and they want to extend, vary and build that section.

In this case the guitarist has the responsibility to support the dancers creative spirit and as the same time the opportunity to perhaps play a new chord sequence or to improvise some new cadence in the hope of both helping and inspiring the dancer.

Of course if it goes the other way and the dance wishes cut things short you have to be very attentive and to almost try to predict that and the make the guitar music stop when the dance stops.

This is not at all easy and generally works better when two people know each other well and have worked successfully together on a number of occasions.

Flamenco Dancer and Guitarist at Spanish Event

 

It is very rare for a dancer to change the order of the sections of the dance without prior discussion because there is no way that a guitarist can possibly guess what is going to happen next.

What might happen is that if there is also a singer participating in the performance and the dancer feels very inspired by the singer they may want to dance another verse (letra) before progressing on to the footwork section (escobilla) which is not sung.

In this situation the guitarist can understand from the body posture that the dancer is not going to progress as planned to the footwork and can consequently play the chord sequence that is correct for the verse.

The singer will also realise what is going on and this can be a very happy experience: a group of three people understanding each other and happy to work together to provide a new and exciting artistic expression.

For all these reasons a flamenco dancer does really need the accompaniment of a flamenco guitarist and although clients who have to organise an event at a venue such as a restaurant or hotel will quite rightly look for ways to save on expenses by perhaps asking the dancer to dance to a recording they risk ending up with much the same as frozen food which has never really been heated up.

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A professional flamenco dancer accompanied by a professional flamenco guitarist are going to give not only a very enjoyable performance for all those present but are going to compliment the venue’s own high standards.