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I just performed for the first time yesterday, and I want to continue to perform past the Nutcracker, hopefully at least once/year. I have thought about learning flamenco for some time. I have always been interested in character dance, but their are no adult character classes in Chicago. I thought flamenco might be a good substitute. I am interested in dance forms that are "close cousins" to ballet but which don't demand so much with respect to turn-out and feet because both are problems for me. What are the "closest cousins" to ballet? And also, does anyone know of reputable flamenco schools in Chicago?

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I’m in my second year of Spanish dance and just getting to the place where I am starting to enjoy it. As someone who has done a fair amount of dance before beginning Spanish Dance, I’m a little weird. I find things like turning and learning steps in the Sevillanas very easy compared with others in the class. On the other hand I’m much worse with respect to others at castanets and heelwork. The music sometimes perplexes me too.


At first the arm positions seem weird (5th is actually behind the head) but you get used to that. Ditto with pas de Basque. I’ve heard others say that Spanish dance helps ballet dancers improve their port de bras, but don’t necessarily believe that. In Spanish dance you do use your arms, hands and fingers a lot more than ballet and you do become more aware of what they are doing.


Spanish dance is “down” and not “up” as in ballet and you are creating music (castanets and heelwork) and essentially dancing with your hands, arms and hips (females anyway). I wouldn’t say it is a close cousin to ballet. It is much more demanding than I had expected also. Very sensuous also I would say.


Nevertheless, I am a big advocate of adult dancers doing as many different dance forms are possible (we are never going to be that good at ballet, so why not broaden one’s experiential base?) and I think it is quite reasonable for an adult ballet dancer to take both Spanish and ballet and enjoy doing both.


If I were looking for a close cousin to ballet, I’d pick modern, however. Some modern forms are similar to ballet in the sense that you’ll do plies, tendus, degages, developes, jumps, much of what you do in a ballet class, but with just a slightly different look.

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Thanks for your reply. In what way do you experience it as more demanding than you expected? Also, in what way is it more "down" than "up"? When I think down, I think African and Capoeira because of the groundedness of the styles. Is it "down" because of the use of heel work? Also, do you think taking tap would be a good preparation or adjunct to flamenco?

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How is Spanish more demanding than I thought? Well, at least in my classes we spend a fair amount of time on heelwork. It tends to be fast, varied, and I’m often not sure of which foot to move next. It is like doing petit allegro for half a class in ballet. I have fingers of stone, so essentially I find castanets impossible to do well. I rationalize that by saying that I’m a guy and guys don’t often use castanets. Being a guy, I do like heelwork. I just happen not to be very good at it. Another example is coordinating the hands, arms, and feet. We did an across the floor exercise where the feet were moving to one rhythm, we were playing castanets to another rhythm, and just for the fun of it doing a port de bras. Also, Spanish dance is very varied. I don’t know enough to talk intelligently about it, but it seems the world of Spanish dance is huge, much larger than I had believed.


The music is often 6 or 12 count and I have trouble finding a pulse when just a guitar is playing. Classic Flamenco rhythm is 12 counts with the accents on 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12. Weird to my ear.


Spanish is “down” in the sense that knees are bent and at least from the waist down you feel yourself pressing into the ground. From the waist up, like ballet you are lengthening the spine, though the shoulders are further back than in ballet. It is somewhat like African in that sense, though the upper body isn’t pitched forward as characteristic in African.


I don’t know enough about tap to say much about similarities. I think there is a similarity in that how it sounds when striking the floor is paramount. My sense is that tap has a lighter, more carefree, more playful sense about it while Spanish has a more formal, serious, and certainly louder (some steps) quality to it. That’s just a semi-informed opinion on my part.


I can say that at least the Spanish students in my class are as dedicated and serious about what they do as are any adults in any ballet class I have taken.

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I dance ballroom as well as ballet. I find that smooth dances are very favorable with ballet-backing...especially arm and head styling. It does vary just because you ground yourself to the floor dancing into your knees...but with a partner, not all the strain on the legs is there.

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Well, I find Spanish dance a mix between the lengthening of ballet and the grounded feeling of African, which is apt, considering it's origins. I've taken both types of dance, and find that while they do help some placement issues, they aggravate others, like in Flamenco, your ribs are out, and I always get a ccorrection on it in ballet. The heel work is my favorite, and if you are good with keyboards, castanets aren't that difficult. I find that the elegance is similar to ballet. Certain types of modern dance are very similar to ballet, as are certain ethnic dances from the East, or even European peasant and court dances (the origins of ballet) are as well. I don't think tap is at all like Flamenco, the feet are used differently for the most part. If you'd like, PM me and we could talk in depth.

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I've taken flamenco classes for 2 years and just took 2 exams accredited by the Spanish Dance Institute based in Perth, Australia. The exam and exam classes are very structured, just like for ballet. We start with palillos (castanet exercises), go on to footwork combinations, rhythm exercises, then a dance.


As a ballet student, I found the arm positions different (like the 5th position mentioned by Garyecht), and the arm movements are much stronger than the lyrical style used in ballet. And of course, the use of Spanish terms versus French terms :) But there are similarities, such as turning out of the foot and pulling up of the body. It's definitely less strict than ballet, but the basic postural requirements are there. I found my ballet background very useful in doing flamenco, especially since in the dance for my exam, there was a retiré pirouette which a lot of my classmates had problems with, and which I loved to do :ermm:


One thing one should have for flamenco, a very good sense of rhythm. Almost all dances in flamenco are marked by rhythm, whether in the footwork or in the castanet playing. There's a formal principal ballet dancer in my class with a rather weak sense of rhythm, so it's quite challenging for her when learning new exercises.


Of course, the important thing is to love whatever dance form it is you choose to do. After all, we dance because it makes us happy, right? :thumbsup:

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