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Flamenco Props and Accessories
Hair Accessories - Flowers and Combs
Flowers are the traditional hair accessory for a flamenco dancer - and the bigger, the better (like the flower clip on the photo above, available from Flamencista)
Hair combs are also traditional - there's no denying some of the genuine Spanish peinetas are almost works of art and can look absolutely fabulous in place. However, I have to confess I'm not a huge fan, mainly because I have fine soft hair so hair combs don't hold well.
Because they can be such a hazard on the dance floor if they fall out, I also don't recommend them if you're a student - or even a professional who dances in a troupe rather than solo - unless you are really confident they're very securely in place. Two large flowers, as in the photo, are just as lovely and easier to secure with extra pins.
Flamenco dancers do not wear a lot of jewellery. A small shawl is often worn around the neck in traditional costumes, so there's nowhere to wear a necklace, and bracelets plus frilly sleeves would be too much. Nuevo flamenco favours clean, uncluttered lines so again, necklaces and bracelets don't work.
However, most flamencas love earrings, the danglier the better. While some do wear bejewelled or beaded styles, the most popular is anything in brightly coloured plastic to match the costume.
Fans (Abanico, Pericon)
A fan is a very useful accessory at a Feria, because flamenco dresses are heavy and hot on a sunny day! The larger fans are also used as a prop in flamenco dances.
When buying a fan for dancing, do be sure you're buying a proper flamenco fan - one that's specifically designed for flamenco.
Don't be tempted by the small, beautifully painted ones sold as souvenirs - dancing fans are much, much bigger (if you hold an open flamenco fan in your hand, the end of the fan should almost reach the crook of your elbow).
Note: the fans sold in Chinese or Japanese shops aren't usually suitable: although they may be the right size, I've yet to find one that opens and closes fast enough and smoothly enough to be any use for dancing. Try opening and closing the fan - you must be able to do both with one hand.
The flamenco hat is sometimes called a sombrero, but the correct term for this Spanish felt hat is a "Cordobes hat" or a "Sevillano hat". There's some disagreement about the differences between the two!
For most people, this hat is associated with the debonair horsemen at the Feria in Seville, but you will see women wearing them too - as you can see in the clip below. And of course, they make a great prop, especially if they're red!
Shawls (Manton, Mantoncillo)
One essential item in a flamenco student's kit is the shawl. It comes in several sizes. It is almost always trimmed with long fringing and the larger sizes are usually embroidered with flowers and leaves.
The very largest is used as a prop, in a demanding and dramatic dance. Most students will begin with a mid-sized version of this shawl, as the full size is too cumbersome at first. The medium-sized shawl is also worn - not thrown around the shoulders but wrapped and pinned to form a shawl top (read more about that in my article about shawls here).
The smallest version is a small shawl (also called a mantoncillo) worn over the shoulders and pinned in front. It's usually plain, because it's traditionally worn with a patterned or polka-dotted dress.
You'll find detailed information about castanets in this article.