Today, I will look into flamenco style called caracoles and how to dance it. Caracoles belongs to a family of cantiñas out of which the most famous is alegría. In contrast to alegrías among which we differentiate several different styles, there is only one style of caracoles, and even though there is only one style we still use a plural form caracoles (versus singular caracol) to describe it. Finally, unlike few other styles, caracoles only has a handful of letras to choose from.
To start, I will analyze one way to dance caracoles and its dance structure based on this recording made especially for dancing:
Guitar intro (falseta)
Llamada for first letra
Llamada for second letra
ANALYSIS OF THE DANCE STRUCTURE
The first letra starting with Como reluce... was created by singer Antonio Chacón and talks about the street called Alcala in Madrid. This letra pays homage to the audiences of Madrid which adored Chacón. Another part of the letra mentions Chacón's great passion which was bullfighting. Here he mentions all the great bullfighters of his times, in the 19th century; Curro Cúchares, El Tato & Juan León. They used to get together at Café de La Unión, which is also mentioned in the letra.
Here is the letra, which seems short but it is extended over many compases, which is very typical in flamenco signing.
Cómo reluce, cómo reluce
La gran calle de Alcalá
cómo reluce, cómo reluce...
cuando suben y bajan
al café de la Unión,
donde paran Curro Cuchares,
el Tato y Juan León.
The last part of the letra is an add on, typical forcantiñas, called juguetillo. Juguetillos have no continuation of theme to a letra, such as this one talking about a woman's beauty.
Eres bonita, eres bonita
la pasión el conocimientono no quita
te quiero yo
como a la madre que me parió
The second letra talks about a woman roasting and selling chestnuts in the winter, and the hardship of this activity. During wintertime, you can see people sitting out, roasting, and selling chestnuts at every corner of the city center of Seville or Madrid.
Por qué vendes castañas asas,
aguantando la nieve y el frío?
Con tus zapatos y tus medias calas
eres la reina para tu marío
Regordonas que se acaban,
hermosas como recién casadas,
y tú las vendes por un querer
The second letra is followed by the estribillo, which is typically used to conclude the caracoles. In this version, the dancer structured the dance to hear the estribillo twice, one time after the second letra and the second time to end the dance.
mocito ¿qué ha dicho usted?
Que son tus ojos dos soles
y vamos vivendo y ¡ole!
The estribillo is followed by a remate/cierre to close this section completely.
After the cierre, a dancer initiates the escobilla, right in that part where you can hear a pause. You can hear the same song with the sound of footwork of Javier Baron to see how he initiates his escobilla and hear different remates and llamadas as he dances them. The escobilla of caracoles is always based on the sound of the traditional falseta of escobillas used in all forms of cantiñas. This escobilla melody always starts on 1 while the rest of the caracoles starts on 12.
When a dancer is ready finishe the escobilla melody they need to start marking 12's with their footwork which is typically done through a subida step which also raises the tempo. Eventually a dancer needs to dance another llamada, calling the singer for the final esctribillo, also sometimes called a macho. The macho is sung until a dancer signalizes that they go off stage or they close the dance on stage.
Caracoles is usually danced with a large fan called pericón, castanets and bata de cola.
HOW TO DANCE CARACOLES
Caracoles like all cantiñas are a dance style generally conveying positive emotions. What emotions have you noticed on the faces of dancers in the example videos? Another important thing to note is that caracoles are sung with few remates. That means that most of the dance consists of marking the compás with marcajes that are fluid and smoothly change from one to another, in contrast to for example soleá por bulerías which is saturated with remates de cante. Notice also how the dancers in the examples mainly look up, which is very typical for all cantiñas. All cantiñas are danced in a very proud way with head up and chest predominantly open.
Here are a few more versions of caracoles recorded for dancing with a bit different structures that the one discussed above.
If you are considering learning how to dance caracoles, take a look at the flamenco classes I offer!