Teacher Resources



The roots of Flamenco reach back at least 500 years to when Moors, Gypsies and Jews found themselves pushed further and further south in the Iberian Peninsula into a region called Andalucia by the “Reconquest” of the Catholic monarchs. The mingling of these cultures in exile gives Flamenco its unique sound and look due to the combined influences of North Africa, India, the Middle East and the indigenous people of what was to become Spain. Only in the last two hundred years has it coalesced into a theatrical form to be performed on stages in a café setting and later in theaters. Flamenco is made of up three components: cante, baile and toque. The true essence of Flamenco has been preserved over the years in Calo or “Gypsy” families and their communities on the fringes of society. It is something that, in its purest form, takes place in homes or in the local tavern late at night after the day’s work is done and the evening’s meal is complete. It is the artform of an oppressed people and in that respect bears a similarity to the Blues of the American South. Over hundreds of years, Flamencos have developed a system of palos that allow musicians, singers and dancers to improvise around a commonly known structure and in that way, it is similar to Jazz.


Flamingo is a bird
Flamenco is not!


Many of the palos and corresponding dances of flamenco are associated with specific places in Spain. For example, Sevillanas comes from Sevilla (Seville). Every spring during the Feria (festival) de Sevilla, people dance Sevillanas at parties, in the streets and anywhere the music is playing! It is sort of like the Electric (or Cha Cha) Slide – there is a particular melody to the song and everyone knows the same steps. It is danced in partners or in groups by men and women of all ages.

Frequently, dances are named by their palo and the city that the style is associated with. For instance:

*Bulerias de Cadiz – the palo or song form is a “buleria”. It is from – “de” – the city of Cadiz

*Bulerias de Jerez – the palo or song form is a “buleria”. It is from – “de” – the city of Jerez

*Fandangos de Huelva – the palo or song form is a “fandango.” It is from – “de” – the city of Huelva

*Tangos de Malaga – the palo or song form is a “tangos.” It is from – “de” – the city of Malaga


If you were a dance, what would you be called?
(Your name/nickname) de
(Your city, neighborhood or street)


*Palo – a song form that has a specific structure, key and rhythm.
*Baile – dance
*Cante – singing
*Toque – playing (guitar, percussion, etc.


Utilizing a map of Spain, can you find the cities mentioned here?


1.If you were a dance, what would you be called?
Your name/nickname de Your city, neighborhood or street

Frequently, names of palos come from descriptive words about the feeling of the particular palo. For instance, “bulerias” comes from a verb that means “to joke around”. The bulerias is very lively and can be silly. “Solea” comes from the same root as our word “solo”. It is a very sad palo that expresses loneliness.

  1. Play a variety of music and ask the students to freestyle (dance any way they want).
  2. Stop the music and yell “FREEZE”
  3. Ask individual students for the name of their dance or “palo” using this format:

Descriptive word de Your city, neighborhood or street


Flamenco is an artform that welcomes audience participation in the form of shouts of encouragement and handclapping. While we are performing, genuine shouts of encouragement – much like at a sporting event – and applause when they see or hear something they especially like are welcome. At certain moments, we will invite students to use their voices, hands and sometimes their feet to experience a little bit of the creation of flamenco themselves. Please encourage the students to be respectful of the performers but be ready for more active participation than what they may be used to. Flash photography is prohibited during the performance because it can be dangerous for the dancers. However, posed photos at the conclusion may be requested.


No one is exactly sure where the word “Flamenco” comes from.

Some authorities believe it comes from an old-fashioned Spanish word for “Flemish”. The Spaniards in the 1500’s associated the music and dancing that would later become flamenco with gypsies who won honor in the Spanish war in Flanders.

Some believe it is derived from the archaic Arabic flameng ghu meaning a fugitive peasant.


Jaleos are “words of encouragement” that are shouted out during flamenco music and dancing. Here are some examples; these are not literal translations nor are the alternate pronunciations necessarily correct for grammatically proper speech. Jaleos are shouted in passion and used more as slang.

Ole OH-lay or sometimes pronounced “AH-lay” – similar to “woo hoo”

Eso AY-so or sometimes pronounced “AH-sa” – “that’s it”

Toma TOE-ma “take it away”

Vamo BAH-mo “go” or “go on”

Guapa or Guapo WAH-pa or WAH-po “good looking woman or man”, used in combination with Ole: “Ole guapa” to compliment the appearance of the dancer.

Maestro MY-stro “master,” used in combination with Ole, this is a high compliment to the skill of the musician: “Ole maestro”

Think of when you go to a sporting event and you want to cheer your team on – what kinds of things do you yell in English?


Flamenco utilizes some unique musical instruments that have their roots all around the world.

Castanets: Made of wood or sometimes resin, these instruments are suspended from the thumbs and played with each finger. Contrary to popular belief, they do not have springs in them! Relatives of the castanets can be found in cultures all around the Mediterranean Sea and include finger cymbals or “zils” frequently used in Middle Eastern dance and music.

Cajon: This box drum originated in Peru and is derived from shipping boxes. Laborers at the docks would pound out rhythms between jobs on the empty boxes. Eventually, the boxes were adapted into carefully crafted musical instruments with a sound hole for amplification and strings behind the striking surface to produce a snare sound. The Cajon is a fairly recent addition to the Flamenco instrument family.

Flamenco Guitar: The flamenco guitar is different from other guitars because it uses nylon strings, has a specific body shape and size and is made of different kinds of wood. It is also played differently. Some of the techniques that are unique to Flamenco include:

Golpe: striking the body of the guitar to give a sharp knocking sound while playing the strings.
Picado: plucking each string individually with the nails of one hand instead of a pick.
Rasgueado: a strumming pattern that uses the nails of the hand instead of a pick to create a fast pattern of sound.

Palmas: Rhythmic hand clapping – we all have this instrument with us all the time! Techniques for palmas include:

Sordas: palmas with cupped hands to produce a muffled popping sound.
Claras: palmas with the stiff fingers of one hand slapping into the cupped palm of the other to produce a very sharp, ringing tone.

Pitos: Finger snapping – another instrument we always have around.


The most important building block of flamenco is the rhythmic structure. We have rhythmic “instruments” with us at all times. The clap of a hand, the snap of fingers, the click of a tongue, the rap of a knuckle on a desk. In this exercise, students will create their own overlapping rhythms in 4/4 time.

After the Performance:
What “instruments” did the dancers use to play rhythms?

Try the activity again – are there new “instruments” the students would like to

  1. Create two groups of students we’ll call, “Loud Ones” and “Soft Twos” – this may be done in multiple small groups or even in pairs.
  2. Ask the “Loud Ones” to create a loud, percussive sound using their bodies as instruments. The sound should be short and sharp.
  3. Ask the “Soft Twos” to create a medium or soft percussive sound using their bodies as instruments. The sound should be short and sharp.
  4. Using a chalk or dry-erase board, write the numerals 1 2 3 4 so that all can see.
  5. The “Loud Ones” sound on 1; the “Soft Twos” sound on 2, 3, 4 Repeat in sequence to create the rhythm of the flamenco palo “Tangos”.

Vary tempo and dynamics
Switch groups so that everyone gets to be Loud and Soft

Extension Activity: Layer compatible rhythms to create polyrhythms

  1. On the chalk or dry-erase board, add this sequence of numbers: 1 2& 3 4
  2. For this new rhythm, the “Loud Ones” sound on 1 and 3. The “Soft Twos” sound on 2& and 4
  3. Split the “Loud Ones” and “Soft Twos” each into two groups. Create two new groups, each made of half “Loud Ones” and “Soft Twos”.
  4. Have New Group A begin the original 4-count sequence. New Group B performs the new sequence at the same time, beginning with 1.

Vary tempo and dynamics
Switch groups so that everyone gets to be Loud and Soft

  • There will be one sound on 1
  • There will be one sound on 2
  • There will be one kind of sound from only 1 group on &
  • There will be two different kinds of sound on 3
  • There will be one sound on 4


(Subject to change depending on casting and program format)

A traditional dance from Seville, capital of Andalucia, where it is danced in clubs, on the streets, at parties and anywhere people gather.

The Farruca was traditionally a man’s dance until the great Carmen Amaya shocked the flamenco world by putting on pants to dance Farruca in the 1940’s. She opened the door for other female artists to perform the highly athletic footwork and strong, aggressive movements that we enjoy dancing today – in skirts or pants.

Not to be confused with the Argentine tango danced with a partner, this flamenco palo is for solo dancers. The music has a lively, driving beat. It is one of the most widely found palos with distinct melodies and letras associated with many different cities in Andalucia.

This palo is derived from the tangos and was adapted in the port city of Cadiz. It is a mischievous, airy dance. The cante frequently is flirtatious or tells a silly story.

Originally from the port city of Cadiz, Alegrias is a lighter, happier palo in a major key. Because Cadiz is a port city – the oldest continuously inhabited in Europe – many dances and songs from other cultures entered Spain in Cadiz and became incorporated into flamenco.

The rhythmic structure comes from the Indus River Valley, the ancient homeland of the Calo (gypsies). It is the oldest, deepest and saddest of the flamenco palos.

Variations are claimed by several Spanish cities or regions but bulerias is most closely associated with the city of Jerez. Its rhythmic structure is derived from the Siguiriyas.

This palo is associated with the mining region of Andalucia around Cartagena. Typically danced at the funeral of a fallen friend, the palo is one of the deep, sad palos reflecting the backbreaking labor, hunger and premature death faced by many of the miners.

For more information about Flamenco, Flamenco artists, Flamenco recordings and videos, check out these websites:


Recommended Books (in English)
Flamenco! Photographs by Ken Haas, Text by Gwynne Edwards
The Art of Flamenco by D.E. Pohren
In Search of Duende by Federico Garcia Lorca, various translations
Song of the Outcasts by Robin Totton (includes a music CD)