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Flamenco—Learn Sevillanas Paso a Paso

Kate Swanson is an Australian writer and dancer with nearly 40 years' experience in ballet, jazz, flamenco, ballroom, Latin and bellydance.

Sevillanas at a feria in Spain

Sevillanas at a feria in Spain

Before all the flamenco purists write to me in horror, yes, I know many people say the Sevillanas is not a flamenco palo. But even though it may not be “true” flamenco, Sevillanas is very commonly taught to beginners in flamenco class, and used in performances, because of its set choreography—and that justifies its inclusion here.

The dance is made up of coplas (verses), each one with a different choreography. In this article, I've included videos of each copla and a table showing the steps for each one.

Sevillanas is never improvised, unlike other flamenco dances—which is why it's so often taught as a first dance to new students. Although the steps are set, you'll see plenty of choreographed variations, especially in professional performances. In earlier times there were seven coplas—these days, thank goodness, there are only four to memorise!

How to Dance Sevillanas

The first copla is the easiest. Learn this one first, before even attempting the rest, because it's the foundation of all the others. All the following coplas use the same basic steps in different combinations and with extra flourishes. Once you've mastered this one, you're halfway there.

The video below is a nice clear demonstration of the first copla. It's by one of my favourite Australian flamenco dancers, Tomás, who teaches in Canberra.

First Copla

The Sevillanas Coplas

If you have learned the dance in the past and simply need a refresher, the table below may help. Note that each copla is split up into three sections.

I've used the Spanish names for each step deliberately. As you advance in flamenco, you may be lucky enough to travel to Spain or to learn from authentic Spanish teachers. If you learn the Spanish vocabulary of flamenco, you'll be able to communicate wherever you go. Here are the steps used in Sevillanas:

  • Careos - Type of passing step used in fourth copla only
  • Esquinas (lit. “corners”) - from one side to the other
  • Pasada - Passing step, changing place with your partner
  • Sevillana - basic Sevillanas step
  • Vuelta - Flamenco turn
  • Zapateado - stamping footwork

Rond de jambe and pas de basque are two steps from ballet, used in the second copla.

Note this is the traditional version of the steps—you will see many variations of detail.

PRIMERA SEVILLANA  

1er

2o

3er

5 sevillana steps

1 sevillana step

1 sevillana step

1 pasada

4 esquinas

4 pasadas

 

1 pasada

1 vuelta (left)

SEGUNDA SEVILLANA

 

 

1er

2o

3er

1 sevillana step

1 sevillana step

1 sevillana step

3 rond de jambe

6 pas de basque

8 pas de basque (circle)

1 vuelta (left)

1 vuelta (left)

1 vuelta (left)

1 pasada

1 pasada

 

TERCERA SEVILLANA

 

 

1er

2o

3er

1 sevillana step

1 sevillana step

1 sevillana step

1 vuelta (left)+mark

3 zapateado

1 pasada + mark

1 vuelta (right)+mark

1 vuelta (left)

1 pasada + mark

1 pasada

1 pasada

1 vuelta (left)

CUARTA SEVILLANA

 

 

1er

2o

3er

1 sevillana step

1 sevillana step + double stamp

1 sevillana step + double stamp

1 double spin (left)

1 careo

4 careos

1 sevillana step

2 pas de basque

1 vuelta (left)

1 double spin (right)

1 careo

 

1 sevillana step

1 vuelta (left)

 

1 pasada

1 pasada

 

Sevillanas in traditional feria dresses

Sevillanas in traditional feria dresses

Once you know Sevillanas, you'll recognize it anywhere—but I've chosen the following video clips as examples to show you how different the dance can look in different settings. I don't recommend you try to use these to learn sevillanas, since each dancer has his or her own idiosyncracies.

At a feria, things can get so crowded it's hard to keep track of your partner, and you have to keep your steps very small indeed—but people tend to let it all hang out anyway. In a nightclub, steps are more likely to be sketched out rather than danced. At the other extreme I've seen Madrid-trained flamenco dancers who made Sevillanas look like a ballet—and you will also see it danced with a horse!

Second Copla

Third Copla

Fourth Copla

History of the Sevillanas

It's said that the Sevillanas doesn't come from Seville, but from Castile. Some claim the name is a corruption of seguidilla, others that it was a dance called seguidillas Sevillanas.

Be that as it may, these days you will see it danced socially at ferias and neighborhood celebrations across Andalucia. You'll also see it in Spanish night clubs. The music is also very popular, with radio stations devoted to it, and new albums coming out every year. Most Spaniards know how to dance it—it's even taught in schools.

Many flamenco purists look down on Sevillanas and claim it's not part of flamenco, but there are a few eminent flamenco scholars who disagree. It certainly can't be denied that Sevillanas is inextricably linked to flamenco, with many eminent dancers including it in their repertoire.

Comments

Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on September 09, 2014:

For flamenco students, it's quite a thrill to go to Spain and find that the dance they learned in class is danced socially by real Spaniards. I can imagine how much fun you had.

Katharine L Sparrow from Massachusetts, USA on September 09, 2014:

Wow! Fantastic hub! I studied in Sevilla and as part of our cultural immersion program, we were required to take a course in Sevillanas! I learned to dance it and LOVED going to dicos and bars at night and dancing right along with the Spaniards. I have forgotten the steps over the years, but I had purchased the instructional video you have at the top, so now maybe I'll combine that with your hub and teach myself the steps again. Great job!

Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on April 27, 2010:

I agree with you, Estela - in fact I point out that it's a folk dance in the second paragraph.

Estela Zatania on April 27, 2010:

The mere fact that sevillanas is danced in couple formation indicates it's a folk dance. Flamenco is unipersonal, although theatrical works occasionally capitalize on its intensity to stage choreographies for couples or groups. By contrast, sevillanas danced without a partner is like a yin without its yang.

msorensson on April 16, 2010:

Wow, I am learning a lot about dances from you. I love dance. Thank you Marisa.