Here are some helpful links to get you started for class. In the past most students bypassed Character shoes and purchased Flamenco student shoes within the first month of class. The Flamenco shoe is a stronger shoe than a Character shoe. It is fortified and allows you to do footwork with hurting your feet. An addition, the Flamenco shoe has a specialized sole and nails hammered to the bottom top and heel of shoe to allow for percussive sounds while doing footwork. A Character shoe does not have the specialized sole or nails, and it does not allow you to make the sounds you need for Flamenco. Tap shoes and Mexican Folkloric shoes are not good choices either. While these shoes are intended for percussive dances, it is not the same sound Flamenco shoe will produce.
Sansha are a good brand for Beginner Flamenco students. There are other brands that sell student shoes but Sansha are reasonable priced and do the job fine for your first shoe.
The general rule for Flamenco shoes are as follows:
- Wide foot=suede
- Narrow foot=leather
Shoes are available in narrow, regular, and wide. It is best to draw an outline of your foot and send directly to shoemaker. Be careful to outline your foot without the pencil going inward toward foot. That will cause the diagram to not be accurate.
Chicago Dance Supply (Flamenco shoes only—Sansha, Happy Feet, and Miguelito. I am only experienced with Sansha and hesitate to recommend other brands. No Character or Mexican Folkloric please!)
Caution: Please be sure to talk to Customer Service Representative for sizing. Sansha runs smaller than street shoe size. Inquire about their exchange and return policy as well.
The first couple of classes, just wear comfortable clothing, nothing oversized or baggie. If you search through your closet and find a wide skirt, bring it to class. When you are ready to purchase a Flamenco skirt, you will find that styles vary. The older traditional practice skirts consist of heavy polyester material with lots of ruffles that “creep” down because of the weight. Elastic bands were used at waist. Modern fashion has moved from that and most dancers prefer comfort, color, and lightweight. Roll tops waist are the fashion now and material consists of spandex.
If you decide to purchase a skirt, both companies listed below have proven to be reliable. The key to a good fit are good and accurate measurements. Without the right measurements, you take a chance of the skirt not fitting properly. Many of these skirts are non-refundable.
Ambiente Flamenco (England)
Castanets, like shoes, are an investment. My rule of thumb is to purchase a pair you can grow into playing-wise. In other words, buy a medium to high range castanet that will match your playing ability as you grow. If you start off with student castanets, you will tire quickly of the sound and you will get frustrated you cannot achieve a certain sound.
Material is equally important. Castanets are made out of various material, some natural like wood and some man-made. Wood sounds beautiful but are difficult to care for. Wood like so many instruments do not like temperature changes and humidity. Wood castanets can crack and go “bad” if not properly taken care of. Stick to man-made material. You still must care for them but they are not as delicate as wood.
Soundboxes and material will determine prices as well. Castanets can range from $40-$400. A good price range for students would be about $80.00. You do not need to purchase these castanets until you have made the commitment to play and practice. Castanets require at least 10 minutes daily of practice in order to get strength in fingers and clarity in rolls.
When you have made the financial commitment to purchase castanets, brand and size are important. I have purchased three brands in my life. Galliano, Castanuelas del Sur, and Jale–All wonderful castanets. My favorite castanets are Castanuelas del Sur.
Sizing runs according to hand size. Careful measurement is required as well to ensure proper fit. You do not want castanets to be too small or too large. They must fit in palm of hand. Typically, sizing run as follows:
- Size 3 and Size 4 = Child/Small adult
- Size 5 = Small Adult
- Size 6 = Average/Tall Adult
- Size 7 = Taller than average Adult
Castanets are custom made, often times like shoes. Please be sure to speak to Customer Representative and determine right fit and return/exchange policies prior to purchasing.
Flamenco West (Castanets, located in Los Angeles)