La Llamada

The Flamenco Dance Student Guide

The term “llamada,” comes from the Spanish verb “llamar” (to call). In flamenco it means “cue” and it is a crucial element used by both dancers and guitarists within a dance or a musical piece.

A llamada is characterized by a distinctive rhythmic pattern that diverges from the regular base compás, with variations depending on the palo. In Alegrias, for instance, while the compás emphasizes the counts 12, 3, 7, 8 and 10 the llamada por Alegrias typically accentuates 1, 2 , 3 and 7, 8, 9, 10

A llamada is defined not only by its distinct accents, but also by the dancer’s “intention”, very often visually recognizable to the musicians playing for the dancer.

How and Why are Llamadas Used?

The llamada serves multiple purposes in flamenco dance:

  • It can mark the beginning or the end of a section, infusing energy or reinforcing the intensity built throughout the dance.
  • When flamenco dance is improvised, the dancers use llamadas to signal upcoming changes to the guitarist or singer, directing the flow of the dance. For instance, they can indicate: “I am concluding this segment; proceed to the letra, proceed to the falseta or escobilla.” These cues guide the various sections of a flamenco choreography.
  • Beyond its signaling function, the llamadas weave into the overall structure of flamenco dance and music, contributing to the coherence of the piece.

Learning Llamadas

Dance students at our school will first learn choreographies that are set to recorded music and the llamadas will be choreographed into the piece. This helps understand the students how they fit into a dance.

Dance students initial exposure to llamadas typically involves “traditional llamadas” that are very clear and obvious both in movement and in the accents used. These llamadas are set to recorded music to provide students with a tangible understanding of how these cues fit into the dance and the structure of the song.

As students develop skills, they will come across increasingly complex llamadas, including some that do not follow the traditional “llamada accents” of each palo. These are personalized and distinctive llamadas. Professional dancers, in particular, may craft their own unique llamadas, which might be hard to follow or understand for beginner dancers and beginner accompanist guitarists.

Tips on Llamadas and Improvising for Advanced Students:

When improvising, it’s important to keep practical considerations in mind: while elaborate llamadas can showcase a dancer’s creativity, it’s advisable to prioritize clarity and recognition. Intricate llamadas, while artistically appealing, may pose challenges for immediate interpretation, particularly for guitarists unless they possess extensive experience. Therefore, flamenco dancers are encouraged to strike a balance, specially when working with musicians that are not familiar with their style, choosing llamadas that are easily understood, fostering a cohesive interplay between dance and music.

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