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Among the accessories that complement and add a special touch to flamenco dancing is the hand fan. This item has become popular both for its practical value in the heat and for its aesthetic value, as an accessory for all manner of styles. Today, we’re going to learn a little more about this small but spectacular item.

Flamenco dancer with abanico flamenco

Flamenco dancer with abanico flamenco

Origin of the Spanish hand fan

Just like the manila shawl, the origin of the Spanish hand fan is Asian. It is in fact believed to have emerged in China in the mid-seventh century, although it was not until the fifteenth century that it reached Europe, through Portuguese traders. However, there is some evidence that the Jesuits were the first to introduce this accessory to Europe.

Be that as it may, it quickly became fashionable among the upper classes, particularly during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV. That said, its use also became popular among women of all social classes over time, who came to create a complete language of seduction through the use of this accessory.

The Spanish hand fan in dance

Since the south of Spain, due to its climate, was the place where the use of the hand fan was most quickly popularized, it’s unsurprising that it quickly became a protagonist in flamenco dances, where it adds grace and style to the movements of the dancers. 

Flamenco dancer with abanico flamenco

Flamenco dancer with abanico flamenco

What is the importance of the hand fan?

The hand fan has an essential role in the dance, particularly because of the language of seduction that we mentioned earlier. Flamenco being, as it is, passionate and sensual, the dancers use a slightly larger fan, called pericon” to give a greater sense of intentionality to their movements, giving them a special meaning. This, in turn, increases the spellbinding nature of the dance.

 

This accessory has been acquiring such relevance throughout history that since the 19th century there has been a Royal Fan Factory in Valencia, which contributed to formalizing the guild of fan makers.

Parts of the Spanish hand fan

The body of the hand fan is a folding skeleton or deck, which in turn is made up of 3 different pieces:

  • Rods: rigid strips, made of wood, plastic, mother-of-pearl, etc. that give shape to the fan and are folded and unfolded. The first and last ones, known as guards, are wider than the others and they serve to protect the fan when it is folded up.
  • Pin or axis of the fan: this is the fixed point where all the rods converge and allows the fan to open and close.
  • Landscape: this is the decorated part of the fan, which is attached to the rods and folded when the fan is closed. It is usually made of fabric or paper, although there are also wooden models in which the upper part of the rods acts as a landscape.

In terms of its shape, there is a Japanese legend that reads as follows:

“It happened one hot night in the home of a humble fan craftsman when a bat that came in through the open window went crashing into the flame of a candle when the man was trying to shoo it away urged on by his frightened wife. The next day, the craftsman’s curiosity led him to imitate the folding membranes of the bat’s wings in the making of a fan.”

How to use the Spanish hand fan?

As we have already mentioned, both inside and outside the world of dance, the fan has its own language. This enables ladies and female dancers to communicate using only the movements and the speed with which they are manoeuvred. Some of the meanings of the fan movements include:

  • I love you: cover your eyes with an open fan.
  • I am engaged: fanning with rapid movements on the chest.
  • No: fan resting on the left cheek.
  • Yes: fan resting on the right cheek.
  • It’s over: lend the fan to someone else.