When I teach the flamenco 12 count to a group of new beginners, I usually start in Solea because it’s slow enough for them to grasp the concept of the compás. But then I move them onto Solea por Bulerías when we actually start learning a choreography. Why? Because Solea as a complete dance is difficult BECAUSE it’s so slow. LOL!
Solea is one of the heavy hitters of flamenco. It’s profound, somber and the mother of all palos (rhythms).
It’s a 12 count, but unlike the other 12 count palos, this one tends to start on 1 rather than the 12 for the letra. Also, the end of the compás is emphasized.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 – 11 –12
The structure of a dance of Solea is similar to all the others:
- Salida (singer & guitarist start, dancer makes entrance)
- Llamada (rhythmical accent from dancer that “calls” the singer to sing)
- 1st Letra (1st verse)
- 2nd Letra
- Falseta (guitar interlude)
- Escobilla (footwork section)
- Bulería (fast ending letra)
- Estribillo (chorus that the dancer ends with)
Of course, there are many variations to this structure. There can be more letras and falsetas. Or there can be more spots for different escobillas. The dancer could even add a letra of Solea por Bulerías after the letras of Solea and before the Bulería. Options!!! Choices!!!
The actual letra of Solea is pretty standard in its structure with a total of nine compases and variations are not the norm (but they’re always there!) If you’ve ever studied poetry, you can look at the letra like this: AB C AB DE DE
- first line [A]
- second line [B]
- break (respiro or remate) [C]
- repeat first line[A]
- repeat second line [B]
- (primer cambio) first transition- first line of couplet [D]
- second line [E]
- (segundo cambio) second transition- repeat the first line of couplet [D]
- repeat of second line [E]
This Solea by Pepa Molina is epic because it’s sincere, solid with so much aire (feeling & attitude) It’s what we all as dancers aspire to- especially to have that pedazo de cuadro (very kick a$$ singers/guitarist) to inspire her and back her up. It’s 20 minutes long and it takes us on a journey that, for me, ends in catharsis. I’ve included a breakdown of her solo below. Enjoy!
Start- Guitar falseta
1:35 Entrada of singer (ay, ay, ay)
2:48 1st letra
3:20 Pepa comes out during the letra instead of coming out to do a “traditional” llamada. In my head this isn’t “really” a real letra only because she hasn’t done a llamada and it’s not a traditionally sung letra of Solea. But, really, technically, it’s the 1st letra.
4:10 Llamada- her “official” opening break to call the singer for the “real” letra
4:46 2nd letra – this is a traditionally sung style of Solea for the first letra of a dance
6:42 Guitar falseta
7:57 3rd letra- the 2nd letra of a dancer’s solo is usually sung like this- “alta”, also known as the “macho” or “valiente.”
10:00 Escobilla- super long 😉
12:35 Continuing escobilla, but going into contratiempo (counter time)
12:50 Remate (break)
13:10 More escobilla
13:42 Slows down the tempo
13:46 Llamada for Bulerias
13:55 A bunch of letras and estribillos of Bulerias from 1st singer
15:00 More Bulerias from 2nd singer
15:55 Guitar falseta with marking steps
16:40 More Bulerias with 3rd singer
17:25 Escobilla a palo seco
19:54 Final Estribillo
olé! Thanks for sharing of the video – awe inspiring. And thanks too for the article – I LOVE solea and now have a greater understanding of the structure.