I Say Flamenco, You Say Flamingo!

Like the lyrics of a popular song, "you say tomato, I say tomahto," I say Flamenco, they say flamingo.  Well, a tomato, even when pronounced tomahto, stays a tomato.  Flamenco, when pronounced flamingo, no longer stays Flamenco ---it becomes a pink bird.

One of the greatest challenges I have encountered in the art of Flamenco is explaining what I do.  When I explain that I am a Flamenco ("fluh"-MEN-co") dancer more often than not the response is "Oh, I was in Spain and saw Flamingo (fluh-MEEN-go") dancing."  I once was interviewed by a television news anchor and I provided the phonetical spelling of Flamenco, and still was introduced as "Flamingo Dancer."  I have presented Flamenco programs in K-12 settings and have provided written and oral descriptions of the word Flamenco to educators and heard them turn right around and introduce my program over the PA system as the "Flamingo Dancing" will start....etc.


I have heard that Flamenco dancing is considered the world's 2nd most difficult dance form.  I can see why.  People can't even pronounce it.  How many people do you know pronounce "Ballet" as "Ballit"?  Not many.   What really amazes me though is that if you look at the word Flamenco and sound out the letters one..at.. a time, there is no way you would be able to say Flamingo instead of Flamenco.  Go ahead - try it: F..L..A..M..E..N..C..O.  There-see-it's Flamenco, not Flamingo!

Now you are unique - very few people even bother to do that!

So Flamenco is doomed from the outset.  A misunderstood art form from start to finish.

Audiences often are exposed to theatrical Flamenco dance (also called Ballet Flamenco) first.  Corps of dancers and a small orchestra of musicians on stage executing complex choreographies and arrangements.  And the operative word here is "choreography." Rehearsed and rehearsed again and again until it is "perfect".  All technique, but no "feeling."  From this first exposure the audience forms its beliefs of what Flamenco is.  If the first elephant you ever saw was dyed pink then you would think that all elephants are pink.  Until you saw the real thing.  Then you would say "how come that elephant is not pink?  Elephants are supposed to be pink - that's not an elephant!."  Only when you take the time to educate yourself about what color elephants really are supposed to be, will you learn the truth.  And realize that the dyed-pink elephant was a "theatrical" presentation of an elephant.

While Ballet/Theatrical Flamenco now is a form of Flamenco, the origin of Flamenco is not in the choreography, or arrangements.  Not by any stretch of the creative imagination.  Flamenco is not a dance. (And never say "The" Flamenco).   It is the cultural art form of the Spanish Gypsy, of which dance is a part.  And it's ALL about feeling.  Flamenco is a subject that is as deep as any abyss you might imagine. 

I always think it wise to educate yourself a little about something before trying it.  Like skydiving.  Would you just drive over to the airport and say "gimme a chute" without learning a little about the activity?  (I hope not).  What about learning to be a doctor?  Would you just enroll in medical school without researching the profession first?  (We all hope not!).  The same should apply to everything you undertake. If you get into a car to go somewhere and don't know how it starts or stops, you're in for a rude awakening.

"Educating comes before Undertaking"

Educating yourself about Flamenco can take years - even decades.  And if you really are into it, then a lifetime.  But if you don't learn at least the fundamentals of what Flamenco is before you start to do it, you (and your instructor) will likely become very disappointed and no one's expectations will be met.

If you have an interest in Flamenco you should know that Flamenco is an exceedingly rewarding art form, but it comes at a price.  The price is: commitment.  You go to a class to learn, not to practice.  You practice at home.  You never say "can't", you say "working on it."  If you want the brass ring, you'd better reach for it - it won't fall in your lap!

Here are some resources to get you started:

Recommended Flamenco Reading

YouTube Recommendations

And for a really no-nonsense resource: Sal's Flamenco Soapbox

By: Linda Machado

Flamenco!...the Studio




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