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Everybody knows that flamenco music and dance come from Spain, but the exact origin is unclear and even the name 'flamenco' is still a mystery. What we do know for a fact is that the ‘gitanos’ or gypsies played a role. In the Middle Ages, they imported flamenco from India. Later, the Moors, Jews, Africans, South Americans and Spaniards all left their mark on the dance.
Guitar music, raw vocals, hand clapping, castanets and dance – the main ingredients of flamenco haven’t changed in the last 2 centuries. The footwork is relatively new: the stamping was only introduced 100 years ago. For many ‘gitanos’ and ‘payos’ (non-gypsies), flamenco is not just folklore but a lifestyle and a major art form. The rousing folk music with its flamboyant dance can be seen live in one of the many 'tablaos' (flamenco cafés) in Madrid, the flamenco capital of Spain.
The multicultural district Lavapiés is the epicentre of Madrid's flamenco scene. Here we find one of the most authentic tablaos of Madrid: Casa Patas, set in a 130-year-old house with ornate wrought-iron balconies. On weekends, shows start at 9:00 pm. The early shows are primarily for tourists, but the later the evening the more authentic the performance. The locals arrive after midnight, elevating the temperament of the musicians and dancers. As in the other tablaos, guests will drink and eat as they watch the show. Reservations are recommended.
Although more expensive, Corral de la Morería, on the edge of La Latina neighbourhood, is the best traditional tablao according to many. A show costs 40 euro, and with dinner you will easily spend 100 euro. But the quality of the dancers and musicians has been unparalleled for more than 50 years. An eclectic group of celebrities – from Marlene Dietrich and Gina Lollobrigida to Michael Douglas and Richard Gere – have made their way here to watch the flamenco show. Reservations are a must.
Flamenco celebrities such as Lola Flores, Imperio Argentina and Miguel de Molina have performed here and stars such as Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner and the Spanish King have come to watch them. Opened a century ago, Villa Rosa is the oldest tablao in Madrid – and still one of the cheapest. Pedro Almodóvar used Villa Rosa as a film location for his movie ‘Tacones lejanos’ (High Heels) in 1991, because of the charming interior with hand-painted Andalusian tile tableaus and its beautiful façade overlooking popular nightlife destination Plaza Santa Ana.