When you speak about flamenco dance there is a lot of vocabulary that is used over and over again. We thought it might be a good idea to look at a few of these terms and explain them a bit more deeply for the beginners out there.
Marcaje which translates to 'marking' is a step that is used throughout a flamenco dance but it is particularly used when the singer is singing.
It refers to the marking of the beats of the compás (rhythmic cycle) by the dancer.
Now, you can mark the beat of a compás just by walking in compás and that is something you should be able to do but marcaje also refers to certain steps or movements that are commonly used in different choreographies.
A very basic marcaje is this one. Here I am marking a 3 beat cycle by tapping one foot in front of my body and opening one arm to the side on count 1 before returning the arm to 5th position and bring my foot back on count 3. The complete marcaje starts at the 1 minute mark.
There is one particular marcaje step that is very famous in flamenco and that is the marcaje that moves from side to side across the floor.
This step is typical for compás with a 12 beat cycle such as soleá. Here is a video of José demonstrating the basic marcaje for soleá. Can you see that the step accentuates the accents of the compás? For soleá they are counts 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12.
Here is a variation of the soleá marcaje. José is using some percussive elements (palmas and footwork) to accentuate the accent on count 6.
Here are some more examples of marcaje for a 12 beat compás.
Por alegrías - I am using my feet to accentuate the rhythm and I lift my knee on count 10. An accent doesn't always have to be marked by sound, it can be a movement but the movement you chose needs to be very clear so that any guitarist or person doing palmas understands your compás.
Por bulerías - because of the increased speed José has made this step much smaller but it still follows the same sideways movement pattern shown in the marcaje por soleá.
Por guajira - here I am marking the compás in one place with my feet and then finishing the compás with a turn on count 8 and a little jump on count 10.
Por soleá por bulerías - I love this marcaje from José. He also uses a turn (vuelta) on count 6 and then has very clear movements from his feet and body. Even if I wasn't in the background doing palmas for José I think you would be able to understand the rhythm that he is dancing.
Like anything in flamenco there are many possibilities. The main thing to remember here is that marcaje refers to the action of marking the rhythm as well as the type of movement (or step) that you are doing.
Technically every step in flamenco marks rhythm, but these steps which are called marcaje can be danced with a singer.
If you have any questions - let us know in the comments we'd love to hear from you.
Renae and José