Once flamenco dancers achieve a certain level of technique, they want to be able to perform with live music. This is when the question comes: what is the basic structure of the palo* I want to perform? Many students, throughout their classes are only taught choreography without explanation of the traditional structure, to recorded music, or without even knowing what each part is called. To be able to dance with live music, we need the knowledge of the basic structure, know what the structure elements are, understand cante and letra structure of the palo, plus guitar melodies of various structural elements. In this blog, I'm going to discuss the basic, traditional structure that apply to almost any palo.
All palos have the same basic dance structure
In general, all palos have the same dance structure which is:
Flamenco dance structure elements explained
Salida - from Spanish exit or start. In this case it's a start of the whole dance. Before the dancer starts, the guitarist plays an intro to set up the singer. The singer sings the salida (salida del cante) and the dancer makes her salida del baile. The dancer has three ways of entering:
- Before the singer starts
- Dancing to the salida del cante
- After the salida del cante
Llamada - from Spanish call. This is the call for the singer to start the first set of lyrics, stanza (letra). Usually, there are several llamadas in any dance, but this on is the most important and needs a special mention.
Letra - in this context, from Spanish stanza. Refers more to melodies than actual words. Every dancer before attempting to dance with live music should study melodies of letras for the chosen palo.
Falseta - melodic variation played on the guitar. A short falseta usually takes 4 compases*, while a long one takes 7 and above. Most guitarists have their own falsetas and the dancer cannot know all of them but she needs to be able to recognize when the guitarist is about to finish so that she can take over.
Escobilla - is the longest sequence of footwork. The time for a dancer to show her footwork skills.
Final - the closure of the dance. Involves at least one letra in the genre that corresponds with the structure of a particular palo. For example, alegrías end with bulerías de Cadiz, tientos end with tangos and siguiriyas with its macho de siguiriyas.
Once you know well the basic structure the rest is up to your imagination
That´s true! Once you have the knowledge of the of all palos, cante, compas and guitar you can play with the structure and even mix palos beyond the traditional way. These days, artists have proven that anything is possible but a lot of it only with very experienced guitarists and singers.
*palo (palos, pl) - musical genres of flamenco that are distinguished by their rhythm patterns, moods, and the melodies of their songs. Example: alegrias, tangos, tarantos, etc.
*compás - rhythm, which in flamenco includes an accent pattern and length of the rhythms cycle