The Fandango was developed in the 18th Century as a dance for couples. You can sing or dance the Fandango and it is normally accompanied by a guitar and either castanets or hand-clapping ('Palmas').
This lively folkdance began life in Andalusia in Spain. The earliest known record of the melody used for the Fandango is in the 'Libro de diferentes cifras de guitarra' (Book of Different Guitar Melodies) in 1705. The dance itself was first documented by a Spanish priest in 1712. However, experts of the Fandango are in disagreement over the dance's true origins. On one side, the most prominent theory is that the Fandango evolved from the Andulusian dances such as the Malagueña or Murciana. Other says that the Fandango could be of a Moorish background whereas others believe that it could be derived from dances in Latin America and the West Indies.
The Spanish dance made it to the stage in 1720, as part of the 'Entremés El novio de la aldeana' by Francisco de Leefadeal. This theatrical work was staged in the Spanish city of Seville. The Fandango was also incorporated into many classical music pieces by various composers. 'Les Trois Mains' by J.P.Rameau and 'Fandango Portugués' by Domenico Scarlatti are just a few examples.
The increasing popularity of the Fandango meant that it became popular among the upper classes in Spain. Both the aristocracy in Spain and in Europe found the Fandango extremely fashionable at this time.
The Bolero and the Fandango are similar in the fact that they have similar metres, hence adding to the theory that it was developed in Spain and not Latin America or the West Indies. Originally the Fandango was notated in 6/8 but later it came to be written in 3/8 and 3/4, the same as the Bolero.
The Fandango music of the 18th Century is characterised by the lyrics which are made up of eight syllable lines, the use of castanets and the descending pattern of the chords (A minor - G - F - E). The singing in a Fandango follows a 'cante' structure and is often bipartite. It consists of four of five verses of eight syllable lines. Occasionally the first verse is repeated.
The Fandango is a dance which expresses the passion of the dancers. The two dancers often taunt each other by following their steps or by using gestures. A Fandango between two men is often a kind of dance-off, a competition of the dancers' skills. In this version, the first dancer creates the rhythm and steps and the second dancer then uses that rhythm to perform a more elaborate dance. The word Fandango is therefore synonymous with 'a quarrel' or 'an argument'.
As it was so popular, many variations of the Fandango began to spring up. The 'Fandangos grandes' or Big Fandangos were performed by couples and often started slowly and gradually increased in speed. The 'Fandanguillos' or Little Fandangos, in comparison, were much more lively and festive.
Each region in Spain also developed their own style of the Fandango dance. It was not long before there was a Huelva, the version of the Fandango in the city of Huelva, and the Málaga, the version in the city of Malaga. The Fandango also has a counterpart in Portugal where it is considered to be one of the Portuguese's most important folk dances as well.
Even Spanish colonies formed their own version of the Spanish dance. In the Philipines, which used to be a Spanish colony, the Fandango lives on in the Philipino dance 'Pandanggo sa ilaw' (or Fandango with lights). In this dance, the dancers don't use castanets but instead carry candles in glasses, which they occasionally swing around in the air.