The Passionate History of Spain’s Fandango Dance
The Fandango dance is a popular tradition from the Balearic Islands of Spain. This dance is popular in many places including Latin America and the Philippines. Two of the most important places in Fandango history are Veracruz in Mexico and Parana in Brazil.
Fandango is a bien de interés cultural (good of cultural interest), a category of Spanish material and intangible heritage. One or many couples perform it, accompanied by instruments such as castañuelas (castanets), címbalos (cymbals), and guitarras (guitars).
Today the word Fandango is used as a synonym of hustle, bustle, or tumult. But the meaning of the Fandango dance is the expression of passion.
¡Aprendamos del baile del Fandango!
Let’s learn about the Fandango dance!
Fandango Dance History and Origin
Where did the Fandango dance originate? Many writers have related the Fandango dance to a Roman dance called the Cordax or Iconici Motus. But according to the Authority Dictionary of 1735, it is described as a dance introduced by “those who have been in the Indies,” meaning Latin America.
So, the Fandango dance origin is a little controversial because it either was created in Rome, in Spain, in Latin America—or in Latin America but by Spanish people during their stay.
The Spanish Fandango dance was present during the 1700s and 1800s in regions such as Extremadura, Asturias, País Vasco, Cataluña, and Valencia. It became part of cultured Europe thanks to its introduction in classical music and operas by Luigi Boccherini, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Willibald Gluck, and others.
The first composition, dating back to 1730, was by baroque guitarist Santiago de Murcia. The origin of the name is still debated but some think it comes from the Bantu language from Africa.
Originally practiced by noble families of Europe, the Fandango later became a “dance of the people” as it traveled to more rural areas. Apparently there is no proof that Fandango music had lyrics initially. It was instrumental with tambourine, guitar, and castanets and is now referred to as historical Fandango.
Fandango’s Relationship with Flamenco
For a couple of centuries, the famous Flamenco adopted certain features from the Fandango, specifically from the Andalucía region where they coexist. Giving birth to a subgenre called fandangos aflamencaos (flamencan Fandangos).
Here is a video of the famous Flamencan Fandango dance from Huelva.
Evolution of the Fandango Dance
According to experts, the Fandango dance was part of the folkloric dance and festivities from the Americas during the Spanish colonial period. It was so popular in places like Mexico that it eventually took a different shape. Today, it’s known as the famous Veracruz huapango with African and Spanish influences.
When Fandango comes from the Balearic Islands, it is colonial and resembles court formal and choreographed dances. When it entered Andalucía, it started to acquire certain traits similar to Flamenco, which is famous for its quejíos (laments).
The Flamenco mood is dramatic and solemn; people who dance it make gestures of pain, nostalgia, and affliction. But when it comes to Veracruz Fandango, it is pure tease and joy. It is even accompanied with whistling and song-long smiles.
Fandango Dance Costumes in Spain
The Fandango dance costume in Spain is similar to the Flamenco costume, The difference is that the Fandango costume can be of two pieces: skirt and blouse. It’s typically more solemn and discrete but it is not a rule. Women wear their hair tied back and castanets on their fingers.
Fandango Dance Veracruz
The Veracruz Fandango dance is a cultural exhibition today in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. The music at these events is son jarocho, huasteco, huapangos, and jarabe.
Fandango dance performers dance over a rectangular or square platform called a tarima. Some of the steps or stomps are similar to those of Flamenco. Veracruz Fandango and his son jarocho have Spanish, Caribbean, African, and Mexican influences.
Why Veracruz? Veracruz is the coastal state with the closest commercial port to Spain. So everything that came in entered through Veracruz.
Fandango Dance Meaning and Survival
What is the meaning of the Fandango dance? In New Spain, the Fandango dance was not only part of weddings or religious celebrations, but also the unification of many races and traditions.
It survived thanks to the fact that the Fandango dance was always practiced in rural environments, by local peasants on wooden platforms. The instruments are the jarana, requinto, violin, and harp.
This celebration is also known as huapango. The original themes were love, seamanship, cattle raising, and wars. They are so antique that some of the lyrics aren’t comprehensible today because it has local antique jargon. The most famous song of Veracruz Fandango dance is La Bamba. Where dancers whistle and shout while they form a ribbon with their feet.
Improvisation in the Fandango Dance
Originally, there were no lyrics (they were added later), and the musicians gave a space for those who wanted to improvise. One proclaims verses and another one answers. It’s no longer a tradition to improvise unless you go to the heart of rural regions around Veracruz.
To see an example of this, check out this huapango from my favorite movie, Los Tres Huastecos. It stars the most beloved actor and singer in the history of Mexico, Pedro Infante, during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. It shows the tradition of improvisation as the two main characters sing to each other with rhymes, teases, and puns that make everyone laugh.
Fandango Dance Costumes in Veracruz
The Fandango dance costumes in Mexico are long skirts and blouses with lace in different colors for women and guayaberas, paliacates, pants, and a girdle for men. Women wear braids and colored ribbons that match the rest of the outfit.
For the stomps of zapateado, women use heels and men wear ankle boots or formal shoes. Famous musicians like Silvestre Revueltas and José Pablo Moncayo have researched and created orquestal music for this Mexican variation of the Fandango dance.
Like Freddy Mercury Said, Will You Do the Fandango?
I hope you liked this lesson about Fandango history. It truly is fascinating how you can trace back music genres, dances and traditions to others as it in the case of the Influential Sounds of Son Cubano.
The best way to enjoy these kinds of regional music is by learning Spanish and understanding and even singing the lyrics. Spanish is the language with the most native speakers in the world besides Chinese, so it also helps you to travel easier and connect with more people—and will give a major boost to your resume.
Let Homeschool Spanish Academy help you learn or improve your Spanish. Together, we’ll tailor a Spanish package that suits your interests and needs. Practice with a native speaker empowers you to become fluent faster.
Get individualized, flexible sessions with our friendly, certified teachers from Guatemala. Check our affordable pricing and flexible programs. Prepare for your trip to Spain or Mexico to do the Fandango by signing up for a free trial class today!
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