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What is the Fandango?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2016
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As an eclectic blend of folk and flamenco dancing, the Fandango has deep roots in the culture that go back to the Baroque period and the royal court in Madrid, Spain. Here is some history on the development of the Fandango as both music and a dancing phenomenon that continues to this day.

The origins of Fandango dancing as well as the creation of Fandango music are sometimes understood to reach back into early Roman and Greek culture, and are sometimes associated as an erotic expression of dance that was especially popular in Rome. However, purists say that the true origins of Fandango music as well as the Fandango as a unique dance move actually begins with the presence of Italian composers in the Spanish royal court during the Baroque period. In fact, Luigi Boccherini is often credited as developing the first of a slow Fandango while in Madrid.

These blends of Spanish dancing with European sensibilities created a dance and musical accompaniment that would begin as a slow and gentle melody, then increase in tempo as the music and the dance progressed. The slow build leading to the conclusion was first created for solo dancing, but in no time involved couples dancing and created variations on the original premise. Before the century was out, the Fandango was firmly ensconced as an essential Spanish dance.

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The production of Fandango music and dance is characterized by a ¾ pattern that begins with an A Minor and then progresses to an E Major. Castanets were included in the music early on and still remain an important part of the Fandango. In actual practice, the Fandango has an appearance that is not unlike tap dancing, with rapid foot movement of intentional steps that naturally lead into the next steps. An individual can perform the Fandango dance, but the dance can be performed by a couple.

In Portugal, where the Fandango has enjoyed a high profile for decades, it is not unusual to see couples of same gender as well as mixed genders perform the dance. Usually when a couple of involved in the Fandango, one partner will lead by setting the pace and the sequence of routines, and the other partner will follow. A brief interlude where a step that is sometimes referred to as dragging the feet will be used as a way of changing the lead from one partner to another. Because the dance is somewhat of a competition between the two partners to see who can perform the most eye-catching moves, the Fandango has also been used as slang for any type of quarrel or dispute that gets to be somewhat spectacular.

The Fandango has been a popular attraction in the United States for many years as well, particularly in the southwestern portion of the country. Used often in stage shows as well as part of basic dance instruction at many dancing studios, the Fandango is considered to be an essential when it comes to learning dance moves for use in polite society.

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