When somebody mentions flamenco, we immediately associate the word with Spain. Flamenco is probably the most well-known cultural form of this country. This passionate dance has evolved through many centuries, and it is still as dynamic as ever. From Sevilla, the flamenco fever caught on and spread to other Spanish cities, including Malaga, which is now known as a place where you can see the best performances. In this guide, we walk you through the history of flamenco from the 14th century up to the present day and explain its importance to Spain. Scroll down to learn the origins of this art form and discover the best places to watch flamenco in Malaga.
1. What is Flamenco?
Flamenco is an art form associated with the Andalusian Roma (gypsies) of southern Spain. It combines folkloric music and percussion with singing and dancing. This music mostly features a guitar and a dry stick (palo seco) that serves as the percussion. On the other hand, the music element usually conveys profound emotions of daily life. Such emotions usually relate to death, despair, anguish, or religious doubt. Meanwhile, the dance element is a hybrid of choreographed and improvised dance steps meant to relate the legends and life experiences of a minority or outcast living in a predominantly white and Christian environment in Spain.
1.1. History of Flamenco
In Spanish, “flamenco” originally translated to “Flemish.” The definite origins of this art form are unclear, but it is largely believed to have started during the Flemish kingdom of King Carlos I (Karel V) in Spain. People were confused between Flemish and gypsy cultures and adopted the term to refer to gypsy music. Other aspects of the history of flamenco are lost in Spanish history due to several factors, including the persecution and exile of the people who practiced flamenco, the oral culture of the Gitanos (gypsies) that passed on folk songs through performances, and the lack of recognition by the Spaniards.
In 1492, the Muslim stronghold of Granada fell to the power of Catholic King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille. For a while, the Treaty of Granada helped maintain religious tolerance towards Muslims and Jews in the city. However, the Inquisition later convinced the king and queen to break this treaty and force the Muslims and Jews to either convert to Christianity or leave Spain. This led to the coerced baptism of 50,000 Moors in 1499. Those who refused to submit to baptism were forcibly deported to Africa. A multitude of Moors, Jews, and Gitanos left the city and fled to the mountain regions and the rural country. It is believed that this sparked the development of flamenco to express the difficulty and persecution they were experiencing at the time.
1.2. Golden Age of Flamenco
Flamenco rose in popularity from 1780 to 1845. Back then, the main element of flamenco was singing, while dancing and music were merely secondary aspects of this art form. The first mention of flamenco in literature is in 1774 in Jose Cadalso’s book Cartas Marruecas. In 1842, Silverio Franconetti opened the first cafe cantate (Cafe sin Nombre) in Sevilla. Many others followed suit in Granada and Cordoba. During this time, flamenco started to evolve into an art form that put more emphasis on music and dancing.
1.3. Flamenco in Malaga
Malaga is not one of the Spanish cities where flamenco originated from. However, it is the birthplace of malagueña, its own variation of the flamenco. This type of dance for couples is similar to the fandangos, a type of dance that features a fast speed, and rhythmic pattern. Malagueña flamenco, on the other hand, has a rich melody that uses guitar accompaniment and is known for transforming into cante libre (free singing). Juan Breva, Enrique el Mellizo, Jose Albert “El Canario,” Antonio Chacon, and La Trini are some of the most famous artists who created and recorded variations of the flamenco in Malaga.
The term tablao refers to the wooden platform on which flamenco dancers perform their dance and footwork. It also refers to a venue where artists hold flamenco shows. Tablao venues rose to fame in Spain during the 1960s and replaced the cafes cantates (cabarets). These places usually feature typical Spanish decor like embroidered silk shawls, bullfighting accessories, and photos of famous people. They also charge an entrance fee for flamenco concerts, and some service drinks, samples of tapas, or dinner.
2. Flamenco day in Andalusia
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the flamenco as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on November 16, 2010. The following year, the Junta de Andalusia (Andalusian Regional Government) marked the anniversary of this declaration by launching the International Day of Flamenco. In collaboration with the Cervantes Institute, Andalusia’s Culture Council celebrated the first Flamenco Day by organizing flamenco shows in different cities worldwide. These places included Istanbul in Turkey, New Delhi in India, Sydney in Australia, and Brasilia in Brazil. The shows featured artists Andres Marin, Rosario Toledo, David Carmona, Rosario La Tremendita, and Arcangel.
2.1. Flamenco Day Events
Flamenco Day celebrations have come a long way since its UNESCO declaration more than a decade ago. Nowadays, this celebration is filled with flamenco dance performances and interactive sessions to learn this art. There are informational workshops, presentations on its history, and showcases of local and professional flamenco talent.
2.2. Biennial de Flamenco
In Malaga, November 16 is not the only day dedicated to flamenco. Seville and Malaga both celebrate Flamenco Bienial every two years, and the next one is set for 2025. The 2023 marked the 8th Bienial de Flamenco in Malaga. During this month-long occasion from September to October, famous artists hold concerts in various parts of the city. Tourists can participate in other activities like photography exhibitions that showcase the latest icons of the flamenco dance and stage performances that feature traditional flamenco dance.
2.3. Malaga Flamenco Festival
Ciudad de Malaga Flamenco Festiva (Malaga Flamenco Festival) is a three-day event for flamenco in Malaga that happens in late June or early July. During this occasion, there’s usually a free flamenco concert in front of the Roman theater with the Alcazaba fortress in the background. Some of the country’s best singers perform onstage in front of a thousand seated guests and many others watch from their terraces. There’s also a flamenco fashion show that features very colorful outfits artists wear for the dance.
Aside from that, there’s a fun flamenco flash mob in a chosen venue. In 2018, more than 3,900 dancers took part in such a flash mob in an attempt to clinch a world record. Top dancers Antonio de Veronica and Saray Cortes notably choreographed this dance and recorded the video in the Carmen Thyssen Museum. Those who want to learn flamenco in Malaga can join master classes being held throughout the city during the festival. Don’t worry if you’re not around during this festival, because you can still experience flamenco in Malaga at any time of the year. The city has a lot of restaurants, theaters, and taverns that hold flamenco shows and concerts several times in a week.
3. How important is Flamenco in Malaga?
More than merely an art form composed of music and dancing, flamenco is one of the foundations of Spanish culture. It is an intense experience for both the performers and the audience. As mentioned in the section above, Malaga is the birthplace of malagueña flamenco, a local variation of the flamenco dance. Malaga—along with Seville and Granada—is one of the cities in Andalucia where you can witness some of the best flamenco shows.
During the Feria de Malaga (Malaga Fair), which happens from August 12 to 19, professional dancers liven up the atmosphere in the city by performing flamenco in Malaga. Women also wear colorful traje de flamenco (flamenco dresses) with flowers and polka dots, while men wear their best suits and trousers. Tourists can also join in the fun and immerse themselves in the flamenco tradition and culture.
4. Museums on Flamenco in Malaga
Get a deeper understanding of flamenco’s origin and development by visiting museums about flamenco in Malaga. Check out these two museums in the city, including their locations, opening hours, and ticket prices.
4.1. Museo de Arte Flamenco (Malaga Flamenco Museum)
Museo de Arte Flamenco of the Peña Juan Breva Foundation serves as a shrine to this iconic Spanish art form. It is a small suite of rooms that features an extensive collection of 5,000 pieces of memorabilia, posters, fine art, photos, dresses, and decor relating to the culture of flamenco in Malaga. There are more than 20 guitars, some of which are over 200 years old. The collection includes more than 2,500 flamenco music that date back to the 19th century. There’s also a tiny tapas bar and an upper room where you can witness authentic flamenco performances.
Location: Calle Ramon Franquelo 4, Old Town
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Ticket Price: Suggested donation of €1
4.2. Museo Interactivo de la Musica (MIMMA)
MIMMA is an interactive museum that houses a collection of 400 different musical instruments. It also has computers, multimedia spaces, interactive modules, musical experiments, scenographic compositions, and musical instruments that visitors are allowed to play. One of its segments is the Flamenco Experience, which educates visitors about flamenco in Malaga and Andalusia using tourism. Each package, which could range from €12 to €452, has a unique itinerary and theme related to the flamenco culture.
Location: C. Beatas, 15, 29008
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday (10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.)
Children over 6, students, adults over 65, and groups: €3
Children under 6 years: Free
5. The best flamenco in Malaga
Do you know where you could see the best flamenco in Malaga? These venues offer some of the best and most authentic flamenco shows in the city. Keep on reading to see the basic details of each tablao, such as its location, schedule of flamenco shows, and ticket prices.
5.1. Antojo Malaga
Antojo is a tablao flamenco in Malaga, Soho. It hosts a flamenco show called Tierra Mia during the evenings from Tuesday to Thursday. This venue also has a taberna (tavern) that features Andalucian gastronomy. Food selections here include tapas, conchas finas (white shellfish mollusks), gambas cocidas (boiled shrimp), mini burgers, and cheesecake.
Location: C. San Lorenzo, 25, 29001
Flamenco Show Schedule: Tuesday to Thursday at 8:00 p.m.
General Entrance Fee: €27
Entrance Fee + Drink: €36
Admission + Assortment of Tapas: €54
Entrance + Menu + Drink: €72
Children up to 11 years old: Free
Discount available for groups with more than 15 people
5.2. Kelipé Malaga
Kelipe Theater and Flamenco Art Center began as a Center of Flamenco Arts and later evolved into an academy of dance, guitar, percussion, and flamenco in Malaga. This institution is determined to preserve the essence and simplicity of flamenco by teaching and holding theoretical and practical workshops for its students. It hosts flamenco concerts at night from Thursday to Sunday.
Location: C. Muro de Prta Nueva, 10, 29005
Flamenco Show Schedule: Thursday to Sunday (8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.)
13 to 18 years old: €25
4 to 12 years old: €15
Up to 3 years old: Free*
Drink: Wine (Rose, Dulce, white or red)
*No drink included
5.3. Flamenco Benalmádena
Flamenco Benalmadena is a theater that holds flamenco shows once a week and allows you to hire flamenco dancers for special events and functions. In addition, it offers online self-paced courses that teach you flamenco culture, music, and dancing. A 12-month subscription to their course costs $510 (around €477) and comes with a one-week free trial. This package includes membership to the theater’s flamenco online network, access to online flamenco shows, and access to Your Flamenco Experience (online flamenco dance course).
Location: Avenida del Sol, 89, 29630 Benadmadena
Flamenco Show Schedule: Friday at 9:45 p.m.
Adult (Show + Drink): €40
6 to 15 years old (Show + Drink): €20
Up to 5 years old: Free
5.4. Pepe López Flamenco Taberna
Pepe Lopez Flamenco Taberna, which opened in 1965 under the name El Jaleo, prides itself in being the oldest flamenco tablao on the Costa del Sol. It offers seasonal flamenco shows and schedules several performances every week during the spring and summer. Witness its “Los Cabales” show, which features eight artists, including five dancers, one guitarist, one singer, and one percussionist. This tablao has served as a springboard for national and international artists like Camaron de la Isla, Mariquilla, and Mario Maya.
Location: Plaza de la Gamba Alegre, 29620
Flamenco Show Schedule: Thursday and Saturday at 10:00 p.m.
6 to 13 years old: €15
5.5. Flamenco and Gastronomy Alegría
Flamenco Alegria is a unique space that has a restaurant and a theater. It offers daily shows of flamenco in Malaga with different programs every week. You have the option to just watch the flamenco show or have dinner (either menu or a la carte) after you watch the performance. The restaurant offers a wide gastronomic variety that includes Fusion-Mediterranean cuisine, as well as options for children, vegans, and vegetarians. It also has an outdoor terrace and a meeting room for private events.
Location: Calle Velez Malaga 6, 29016
Flamenco Show Schedule: Daily (6:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., and 10:30 p.m.)
7 to 12 years old: €15
Up to 6 years old: Free
Add-on Menu: €29 to €39
6. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is a flamenco show?
A flamenco show is a concert or performance that combines art, dancing, guitar music, and percussion. Artists usually perform in a tablao, or a private venue that holds an intimate concert. Modern flamenco shows, however, generally feature choreographed dances by a troupe of artists in a restaurant or flamenco tavern.
2. Is there flamenco in Malaga Spain?
Yes, there is flamenco in Malaga, Spain. This is one of the best cities in Andalucia to watch flamenco. Here, several tablaos sell tickets to an authentic flamenco show. There are also restaurants and “tavernas flamencas” where you can order dinner and watch flamenco as part of a package. These feature smaller troupes of artists that perform less authentic flamenco in Malaga, but you can enjoy the full restaurant service and styling that tablaos do not usually offer.
3. Where can I see authentic flamenco in Malaga?
Enthusiasts who wish to see authentic flamenco in Malaga can book tickets from Antojo Malaga, Kelipe Malaga, Flamenco Benalmadena, Pepe Lopez Flamenco Taberna, and Flamenco Alegria. These tablaos hold authentic flamenco concerts several nights per week. Some venues offer packages that include the entrance fee and a drink or meal. Most of them offer discounted rates for children and groups. Look for their official websites to check their respective show schedules, see descriptions of their shows, and purchase tickets.
4. What is the best flamenco show in Malaga?
If you want to watch flamenco shows featuring nationally famous artists, check out the concerts in the Picasso Museum’s auditorium, Cervantes Theatre, and Museo Flamenco Peña Juan Breva. Here, you can witness the “real thing,” or, the most authentic flamenco in Malaga. There are also flamenco venues that are set up specifically for tourists. These places include Tablao Flamenco Alegria, Restaurante Vino Mio, Malaga Music Museum, Kelipe Centro de Arte Flamenco, Cal y Canto, and El Gallo Ronco. The shows are not as authentic and spontaneous, but they provide you with good flamenco experiences.
5. Why is flamenco important in Spain?
Flamenco is important to Spain because it is one of the major pillars of Spanish culture. It embodies strong emotions like love, sadness, pain, and passion. During the three-decade rule of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, rebels used flamenco music to oppose the regime and wrote songs of protest during the 1960s. It was also an expression of feelings of oppression and difficulty. Moreover, it is a unique art that was passed on from generation to generation through actual performances rather than written music.
6. How old is the flamenco dance?
Flamenco traces its roots back to the 15th century, but some scholars claim that it originated way back in the 14th century. It rose to fame during the romantic era starting in the late 1700s up to the mid-1800s in Baja Andalusi. Jose Cadalso’s book Las Cartas Marruecas bears the oldest record of flamenco music, which dates from 1774.
7. How many calories does one hour of flamenco burn?
A person weighing 70 kg (154.3 lbs) burns an estimated 315 calories with one hour of dancing flamenco. Others estimate that men burn around 150 calories dancing flamenco for 30 minutes, while women burn 131 calories doing the same. The amount of calories a person burns during an hour of flamenco varies from one person to another.
8. What is a tablao?
A tablao is a place or venue where dancers perform flamenco shows. It is a colloquial term for “tablado,” which translates to “floorboard.” The same term also refers to the platform floor itself on which the flamenco dancers step on during their performance. Stomping on the floorboard produces the sound called zapateado, while the sound coming from the heel of the shoe is called taconeo.
9. Why is the dance called flamenco?
The word “flamenco” directly translates to “original from Flanders.” In Spain, people used this term to refer to those with re-colored skin. At that time, they thought that flamenco culture originated from Nordic villages. In the 16th century, people started adopting the term to refer to the best singer among Nordic groups who played in Spanish chapels.
Are you looking for more information on the city of Malaga? Take a look at Malaga’s official Tourism website or plan out your transportation route by reading about Malaga’s Metro Lines. If you want to know more about flamenco, read about flamenco music and the richness of Spanish heritage. For those who want to explore the best spots for food and shopping, check out our guide to the best markets in Malaga.