When people think of Spain, many things can come to mind: ancient churches, picturesque beaches, lively music, etc. But one incredibly unique—and often overlooked—staple of Spanish life is Flamenco dancing. Since its inception, Flamenco has taken Spain by storm, becoming particularly popular in places like Madrid. Combining live music, storytelling, and athletic ability, Flamenco is a passionate and engaging dance form that’s a thrill to watch. As one flamenco theatre employee, Antonia Moya, remarked, “Flamenco is a part of our culture in Spain. It’s not folklore, it’s much more than that. It’s a way of life”. Thankfully, there are many places around Madrid for tourists to experience this captivating art form, whether it be in a small café or in a large theatre.
For those who aren’t familiar with Flamenco, it’s much more than dancing. The dance form involves stomping of the feet, small kicks, moving of the hips, claps with the hands, and various facial expressions. The performers undergo several outfit changes, sporting both short and long skirts. They can perform alone or in pairs, with their speed and movements determined by the emotion portrayed through the music. The music is normally played by a solo guitarist and two vocalists, who also play small sets while the dancers change costumes. The singers and guitarist also clap along with the dancers, adding their own flair to the performance. The use of multiple performers is meant to aid the dancer in articulating a story through his or her movements and expressions. Melinda Nagy, an employee at Casa Patas, said, “the dancers transmit a lot of things to me. They speak about love and suffering. They get to your heart. That’s the real meaning of flamenco, to feel it.” Tourists can find this kind of intense passion for Flamenco in theatres all over Madrid.
For tourists looking for an interactive, up-close experience with Flamenco, Las Tablas couldn’t be more perfect. With smaller theatres to create a more intimate feel, the audience feels as though they are seeing a private performance, rather than a repetitive show. Antonia Moya, an employee at Las Tablas, highlights the importance of watching Flamenco in smaller settings. “It makes a difference to see it in a small theatre—like a tablao—rather than a big theatre because it’s very emotional.” A larger auditorium, she explains, often performs the same show every time. But at smaller places like Las Tablas, the emotion of the dance is heightened, so the dancers are more open to improvisation. The performances are every day, at least twice a day (sometimes more, depending on the demand). Las Tablas also offers a meal with your show, allowing audience members to choose between one of three pre-set menus. Food ranges from classic tapas to finer dining options, like carrillera de ternera, a delicious Spanish meat cooked with sauce.
For those looking for a more formal Flamenco performance, Casa Patas is one of the largest—and most well-known—Flamenco sites in Madrid. The shows usually consist of a maximum of about 100 people, so it’s less intimate than some Flamenco sites, but employees insist that their dancers are the best in the world. “It’s not just dancers from Madrid,” said Melinda Nagy, a customer service rep at Casa Patas. “We take the best dancers from around the world. People will come from Italy, other parts of Spain—they all travel here because this is the best place for it.” Antonia Moya from Las Tablas commented on the worldwide popularity of Flamenco, saying, “It was born in the south of Spain, but now anyone who can understand Flamenco can do it. I know people from Japan or Germany who can understand it very well.” In addition to professional shows, Casa Patas also has a cozy café where customers can listen to Flamenco music and occasionally experience less formal Flamenco shows. Performances are held every day, and because the theatre books renowned dancers from around the world, the performers can change every few weeks.
Advertising their tablao as the only one in Madrid that’s recommended by The New York Times, this studio truly feels state of the art. Like other Flamenco places throughout Madrid, Cardamomo alternates its dancers, choosing from the best of the best. Cardamomo also offers dinner shows, with multiple menus—with anything from formal dinners to inexpensive tapas—to choose from. These menus are created by well-known chefs that Cardamomo selects from throughout Spain. In addition, the theatre is kid friendly, so it’s fun for the whole family. Open from 4:30 – 12 pm, with a minimum of three shows every day.
Las Tablas; Plaza de España, 9; Tow shows every day at 20.00 and 22.00; Tickets without dinner go for around 29 euros, with dinner shows varying from 60 to 70 euros; Metro Plaza de España.
Casa Patas; Cañizares, 10; Everyday from 20.00; Tickets go for around 38 euro, with discounts for those under the age of 16; Metro Antón Martín.
Cardamono; Calle Echegaray, 15; Three shows every day from 4.30 to 12 pm; Tickets go for around 40 euros; Metro Sol.