Christmas Gifts for Flamenco Dancers
If you're a non-dancer, what do you buy for the dancer in your life? Here are some helpful suggestions to avoid disappointments on Christmas morning!
If you don't dance yourself, there are lots of things you don't know about flamenco - and if you buy a gift based on what you think a dancer needs, you could go badly wrong! The first rule is -
don't buy dresses or shoes!
It's vitally important that dancing shoes and dance costumes fit perfectly, because if they're too tight they'll restrict movement, and if they're too loose they may snag, fall off or cause accidents. So unless you know your dancer's exact size, it's wise to steer clear of buying flamenco shoes, tops, dresses or skirts. Don't worry, there are plenty of other choices!
There aren't many flamenco dance movies. Look for films by Carlos Saura or Tony Gatlif.
Most dancers would welcome an Instructional DVD's as a Christmas gift. Unfortunately there are very few available for flamenco, and I could find even fewer which I'd be prepared to recommend.
For a new beginner, the DVD below on the Sevillanas is a great choice - it's the first dance they will learn, and most students struggle to remember it all at first. I wish I'd had the whole choreography on film when I was trying to learn it!
This DVD teaches all four coplas of the Sevillanas, including variations and how to dance with a fan. Ideal for students who are starting to learn this dance in class
If you're looking for something low cost for a female flamenco dancer, a good option is something for her hair. You may think the obvious choice is a traditional Spanish peineta (hair comb), but not all dancers wear them - and teachers sometimes won't let students wear them, because they are usually dancing in a large group, and a comb falling on the ground can cause accidents.
Flower slides can be pinned more securely to the hair, so they're a more popular choice for students and can look gorgeous, especially if you buy two or three in toning colours.
Flamenco dancers do not wear necklaces or bracelets - but they love big, colourful earrings. Look for drop styles in bright colours. She can never have too many and they don't have to be expensive: in fact it's probably better if they're not, because earrings frequently get lost or broken in the chaos of theatre dressing rooms.
Depending on current fashions, you can often find some great flamenco-style earrings in High Street shops.
A fan is another clever choice, because fans get damaged easily so most dancers need to replace them regularly. You will need to find a specialist flamenco shop to buy a proper flamenco fan. You may see fans for sale elsewhere, but they are usually either Chinese (which doesn't open and close smoothly), or they are too small. A real flamenco fan is big - as long as your forearm. Smaller ones are just for display on her dressing table, or for use on a hot day!
Tip: try to find out what colours her costumes are, so you can pick a fan in a suitable shade.
A piano shawl is a large, beautifully embroidered shawl. An authentic Spanish silk shawl is the ultimate, but the price reflects their quality.
Hong Kong-made piano shawls are much cheaper, and you'll often find them on eBay. They don't have the same luxurious feel as a real Spanish shawl and the fringing is often shorter - but they still look good. If you're buying for a student, then you can save even more money by buying a triangle shawl instead of a full square.
Most dancers will appreciate the gift of a shawl, because it's so versatile: as you can see from this video, it's often used as a prop when dancing, but it can also be worn as part of a costume - or even over an evening dress when "off-duty"!
Over the years I've been given several pairs of castanets - but they're a risky choice of gift for a flamenco dancer. Buy a no-name brand and your gift could be a complete waste of money! Most cheap castanets are intended as souvenirs, not as a musical instrument - they make a horrible sound and are virtually useless to a flamenco dancer.
If you're prepared to pay for a good pair of professional castanets, you'll score brownie points - otherwise, steer clear.
I would normally say, "never buy amateur castanets" but this is an exception, because they're made by famous maker Castanuelas del Sur and therefore they're good quality at a reasonable cost.
Top of the Range
Or how about a flamenco course at Carmen de las Cuevas in Granada? They have classes for all levels from beginner to advanced, and the course can include dancing, singing, guitar playing, Spanish language and cultural events - a total flamenco immersion she'll never forget!
Still undecided? If you want to play it really safe, go for day-to-day items with a flamenco theme, like bracelet charms, flamenco-inspired clothing or artwork. Most flamenco dancers love wearing flamenco-related stuff in their ordinary lives, and would appreciate a flamenco painting to hang in their practice room or bedroom.