Course Description

Course Name

Music and Society: Theory and Practice of Flamenco

Session: VSVF2221

Hours & Credits

45 Contact Hours

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


Broadly defined, Flamenco is a complex performative art which includes song (cante), dance
(baile) and guitar music (toque), originally embedded in a particular lifestyle and world view. Tracing its
origins to approximately the mid-nineteenth century, Flamenco has been associated with Spanish
Gypsies (gitanos), a community instrumental in its development and who represent the majority of its
practitioners, and with the culture of Andalusia in Southern Spain. The exoticization of Spain during the
19th century stimulated Flamenco’s broader development and popularity until it eventually grew to
become a powerful national icon, while it continues to be regarded as a quintessential expression of
Spanish culture.
Our emphasis is on acquiring an aural, visual, and theoretical understanding of Flamenco, of the
streams of culture which created it, and of its role within Spanish culture, and on using the study of
Flamenco as a vehicle to explore the relationship between art and culture, music and society, and the
ways in which we think, talk and learn about Flamenco.
The intention of the practical part of the Course, the Flamenco dance class, is not to train future
Flamenco dancers, although many students go on to further study. Rather, it is designed to give
students an understanding of the mechanics, aesthetics, and basic canons of an art form that is so often
described as being purely spontaneous and free. The dance class centers on learning the basic postures
and steps of the Flamenco vocabulary and the techniques of footwork. We also study the “compás”
(rhythmic cycle) and learn to play “palmas” (rhythmic handclapping). Above all, we try to understand
how Flamenco dance is structured and the essential relationship that links dancer, guitarist and singer.
At the end of the Course, in addition to a final paper and final exam, students will perform the
simple choreography they have learned, accompanied by a professional singer and guitarist. This tends
to give them an entirely new appreciation of the complexity of both the dance form and the culture in
which it is embedded. Evaluation in this part of the class sessions is based on attendance, effort and
improvement, each student performing at his or her own level; ability or prior dance training is not
Requirements: The pre-requisites for this Course are an interest in Cultural Studies and a love of
music and/or dance.

The class may meet twice a week or once a week for a double session. Each class is divided
approximately into one half dedicated to lecture time and the other half to the dance class, although
this may vary from session to session. Video screenings, listening sessions, and live performances are an
important complement to the theoretical studies offered. Students’ personal responses to these
sessions are an important part of developing an understanding of the art form.
The basic text material to be used during the Course is drawn from a variety of sources, ranging
from the Romantic travel writers to the biography of the great Gypsy flamenco dancer, Carmen Amaya,
whose career spanned most of the modern history of Flamenco and intersected with all the important
figures of the time. Students will also choose one out of three short books written about an individual’s
personal experiences in the Flamenco world of the 1950s and 1960s, and will be expected to present a
“book report” on his or her chosen text.

UNIT 1 INTRODUCTION: What is Flamenco? Resources; What do we know and how do we know it?
UNIT 2 The Flamenco Repertory
UNIT 3 Pre-flamenco
Spanish folk music and other influences
UNIT 4 The Gypsies
Gypsies of the world; Gypsies of Spain. The Flamenco Fiesta
UNIT 5 The Beginnings of Flamenco
18th and 19th century travellers, the Foreign eye and the Romantic aesthetic. bailes de candil,
tavernas, salones, academias.
UNIT 6 Flamenco’s “Golden Age”
Cafés Cantantes, The cuadro flamenco; development of a format and a repertory
UNIT 7 Intellectuals and Flamenco
The Generation of ‘98, Antiflamenquismo,
Lorca, Lorca, Falla and the Concurso / Competition of 1922.
UNIT 8 Flamenco in the Theater
The Opera Flamenca, “Spanish Ballets”, and the beginnings of theatrical Flamenco, Flamenco
styles abroad
UNIT 9 The Flamenco Renaissance
Antonio Mairena and the New Purism.
The Tablao Flamenco.
The “Boom” and Tourism in Spain.
Franco and the Marketing of Spain.
Modern Flamenco Andalucía: 1950 - 1970; “Rock Andaluz”, Morón de la Frontera, The roots of
today’s dance, Mario Maya and Antonio Gades.
The Musical Transition: Paco de Lucía, Camarón de la Isla.
Baile Gitano, cante gitano; Flamenco as a marker of Gypsy identity.
New training grounds; Flamenco de Tablao, Flamenco de Academia
Stretching the limits; Flamenco Fusion.
The New Flamencology
New trends in Flamenco research

*Course content subject to change