The flamenco fan

 In Flamenco Show

The complements in flamenco are as important as the singing and dancing itself. In fact, they make this art so eye-catching and attractive. We are talking about the flamenco dress, the high heels, the shawl and, of course, the flamenco fan.

Knowing how to move a fan is a skill whose use in flamenco is nowadays reserved for women, although in its beginnings it was not like that. We will show you the origin of the fan in flamenco.

History of the fan

The fan is a complement whose antiquity will surprise you. There have been murals and hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt in which it appeared, although with a different aspect to the present one. It consisted of a long handle with ostrich feathers at one end, and was carried by slaves and camera assistants with a dual purpose: on the one hand, to fan their lords and, on the other, to show their power, as it was a symbol of the wealthiest classes.

Other cultures also used it, such as the Greeks and Romans. The latter called it “flabelum“, flabelo, and the servants carried it to give freshness and frighten the insects to their lords while they rested.

On the other side of the pond we also find the presence of the fan, more specifically between the Incas and Aztecs: Moctezuma gave Hernán Cortés six feathered fans.

the flamenco fan

However, this fan is not the one from which the current flamenco fan evolves. The folding fan was developed in China and Japan, approximately in the 7th century. Its quality materials and artistic designs quickly turned it into a fashion accessory.

A curiosity, the tradition of the fan in the East is millenary, goes back to the time of the emperor Hsien Yuan, around the year 2697 B.C.

Their arrival in Europe was delayed until the fifteenth century, thanks to the trade routes of the Portuguese. From there, given its proximity, it reached Spain, whose settlement was immediate, especially in the hottest areas, such as Andalusia.

The fan, a fashion accessory

In the seventeenth century, the fan became a fashion accessory among the ladies who presented themselves in society. With embroidery and lace, it matched the dresses and hats of the time. In fact, they could be made with any material, from feathers and paper to more noble materials such as mother-of-pearl or precious stones. Although its lightness was really sought, so they were made looking for easy handling.

It is here that the language of courtship between men and women begins to develop and the position or gesture made with the fan had a hidden meaning, it was a language in itself. Some of the messages that could be transmitted were:

  • Fan slowly: indifference.
  • Fans on the chest slowly: I’m looking for a boyfriend.
  • To do it quickly: I am already engaged.
  • Close the fan and put it on the left cheek: no.
  • Close the fan and put it on the right cheek: I like you.
  • Put your lips on the guards/edge of the fan: mistrust.
  • Run your finger through the rods: we have to talk.
  • Pass the fan through the eyes: excuse me.
  • Support it in the heart: I love you.
  • To close it abruptly: impatience, hate.

Parts of the Spanish fan

The evolution of the fan led him to settle in Spain as a complement, in addition to its use as an instrument to refresh himself. Here, it resulted in a folding version, the parts of which are described below:

Deck of cards (Baraja): folding skeleton of the fan. At the same time, it has three fundamental elements: the rods, the clavillo, clavijo, and the country, país.

Flamenco Fan

Source of the image:

The rods are the rigid strips, made of wood or plastic, which form the fan. They are joined at the bottom in a single point, the clavillo, the axis of the fan. If you look at the fan when it is closed, the first and last rods are wider and are called guards (guardas). This is to protect it when not in use.

The third element is the one that has more variations and can be of fabric or decorated paper. We are talking about the landscape or country, the país, and it is the part that folds, which keeps the rods firm.

Variations were such that it became an art in itself, and in the 19th century the Royal Fan Factory was created in Valencia, and with it the fanmaker’s guild became official.

So, the fan reached the flamenco tablaos as a complement to the gypsy costume and giving the dance, along with the shawl, more movement and sensuality. The bailaora or bailaor (flamenco dancer) usually uses a large one called “pericón“, whose beauty makes live flamenco shows more spectacular.

Another curiosity: the Orientals were also in charge of introducing the fan in the dance, since there is evidence of the use of this complement in Korean dances of more than 4000 years BC.

The truth is that the use of the fan has gone from fashion to art, becoming an element of flamenco shows. If you want to see how our dancers incorporate it into their movement, don’t miss “Seducción Flamenca”. Two daily passes. Book your ticket online here. We wait for you!

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