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Flamenco is widely practiced around the world, both in its musical and dance forms. It has been taught and studied through formal, non-formal, and informal teaching processes. Traditionally, it is taught through imitation and repetition and learned by ear. Zapateado is the percussive element of the dance. This study aimed to investigate whether a change in teaching strategy and resources could improve motivation and rhythmic precision when performing zapateado. The research used a quasi-experimental approach. Twelve professional flamenco dancers participated. The most significant results show that a change in methodology can encourage motivation and improve the rhythmic precision of zapateado.
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Journal of Dance Education
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Rhythmic Precision in Zapateado Flamenco: The
Influence of Teaching Methods
Rosa de Las Heras-Fernández, Víctor Padilla Martín-Caro, María Espada &
Zulema de la Cruz
To cite this article: Rosa de Las Heras-Fernández, Víctor Padilla Martín-Caro, María Espada &
Zulema de la Cruz (2022): Rhythmic Precision in Zapateado Flamenco: The Influence of Teaching
Methods, Journal of Dance Education, DOI: 10.1080/15290824.2022.2098301
To link to this article:
Published online: 29 Sep 2022.
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Rhythmic Precision in Zapateado Flamenco: The Inuence of Teaching Methods
Rosa de Las Heras-Fernández, PhD
, Víctor Padilla Martín-Caro, PhD
, María Espada, PhD
and Zulema de la Cruz, PhD
Jefa de departamento del área de didáctica de la expresión musical y corporal. Facultad de Educación, Universidad Internacional de la Rioja,
Vicedecano de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, Universidad Internacional de la Rioja, Logroño;
Facultad de Ciencias
de la Actividad Física y del Deporte (INEF), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid;
Directora del Máster en Composición Musical con
Nuevas Tecnologías. Facultad de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, Universidad Internacional de la Rioja, Logroño
Flamenco is widely practiced around the world, both in its musical and dance forms. It has been
taught and studied through formal, non-formal, and informal teaching processes. Traditionally, it is
taught through imitation and repetition and learned by ear. Zapateado is the percussive element of
the dance. This study aimed to investigate whether a change in teaching strategy and resources
could improve motivation and rhythmic precision when performing zapateado. The research used
a quasi-experimental approach. Twelve professional amenco dancers participated. The most
signicant results show that a change in methodology can encourage motivation and improve
the rhythmic precision of zapateado.
Flamenco; rhythm; strategy;
teaching methods;
Flamenco is well-known all over the world, not only
because it has been on UNESCO’s Representative List
of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since
2010, but also because of how it has been exported and
widely practiced internationally (Ruiz and Ortega 2011).
The best-known forms are music and dance, and these
comprise one of the threads by which flamenco is under-
stood as a cultural asset (Cruces 2014). Interdisciplinary
research on music and dance has also been carried out
within the field of traditional dance in other countries
(Filippos et al. 2018). Flamenco is an orally transmitted
art form (Grimaldos and Caballero 2010). It is per-
formed in a variety of settings and spaces. Public spaces
include cafés cantantes, tablaos, theaters, bullfighting
arenas, streets in towns and villages, festivals, and
peñas flamencas clubs. Private spaces include the court-
yards of buildings and private gatherings, and at cele-
brations for events such as weddings, baptisms, and
communions. Performances also take place in festive
social settings, such as romerías (short pilgrimages) in
Easter Week and carnival, and in workplace settings,
such as in tandem with work songs in mines and forges.
This has meant that there is no specific or standardized
methodology or pedagogy for teaching it. Consequently,
teaching–learning processes for flamenco have included
formal settings, which imply an academic qualification,
non-formal settings, mainly in dance studios, and
informal settings, in an unconscious and self-taught
manner (Jiménez Romero 2015). The incorporation of
flamenco into formal dance training is comparatively
recent (Heras-Monastero 2010), as it did not become
part of the university-level specialized areas in dance by
Royal Decree until 2007 (Real Decreto 85/ 2007).
Flamenco music was incorporated into regulated pro-
fessional music teaching by Royal Decree (Real Decreto
1577/ 2006) when the specialized areas of flamenco
guitar and singing were added to Spain’s national reg-
ulatory framework. Few studies exist on flamenco music
education, as classical music has traditionally been
regarded as superior to the music created by minorities
and subgroups (Elliott 1989). People have predomi-
nantly learned flamenco through observation, imitation,
and repetition (Arranz 1998), using a copying-based
model in which the teacher chooses works and shows
students how to perform them (Casas-Mas, Pozo, and
Montero 2014). This form of teaching corresponds to
the command style of teaching used in physical educa-
tion where the teacher performs an action and students
follow this model (Mosston and Ashworth 1993). Thus,
sensorimotor mechanisms (mirror neurons) participate
in the observation and execution of the movements, as
shown in neuroscientific studies on dance (Zardi et al.
2021). However, current research, largely on undergrad-
uate college students, suggests that student-centered
instruction may be more effective (Brown 2021). This
CONTACT Rosa de Las Heras-Fernández Universidad Internacional de la Rioja. Avenida de la Paz, 137 26006, Logroño (La Rioja)
© 2022 National Dance Education Organization
is reinforced through the OPTIMAL theory (Wulf and
Lewthwaite 2016) which aims to optimize motor perfor-
mance through intrinsic motivation, attention to learn-
ing, and the perception of autonomy. One of the tools
used is the mirror as a visual representation of aesthetic
movement, which sometimes helps for self-correction
and the precision of the performance (Dearborn and
Ross 2006; Ehrenberg 2010). However, there are other
didactic tools that provide autonomy for the student,
such as strategies in exercise practice and didactic music
resources. Furthermore, if we consider the strategy in
practice in greater depth, namely, how the different
exercises or tasks that comprise the teaching progression
of a given motor skill are approached (Sicilia and
Delgado 2002), we can see that in the learning of fla-
menco dance, the student normally repeats the frag-
ments globally—the exercise or choreographed
movements are executed as a whole. Within this global
format, Delgado (1991) defines several types: when the
exercise is interpreted from beginning to end (purely
global), when a concrete fragment is repeated more
often (globally polarizing attention), or when the actual
sequence of the movements is modified (globally mod-
ifying the actual situation). However, there are other
strategies like the analytic approach in which the exer-
cise or choreographed fragment is broken down into
parts and each one is worked on separately from the
other elements (Delgado 1991). Authors like Sicilia and
Delgado (2002) note that the choice of the global or
analytic strategy should relate to the difficulty of the
content being taught, suggesting that simple tasks
should be approached using the global strategy.
However, using the global strategy, the dancers do not
analyze each of the zapateado rhythms that make up the
exercise and, therefore, do not understand them. Thus,
bearing in mind the difficulty of the zapateado exercise,
it would be relevant to teach this percussive rhythmic
element using the analytic strategy. The student of fla-
menco dance learns the zapateado rhythm “by ear” (De
Las Heras-Fernández 2017), like the learning of some
instruments (Pacheco-Costa 2019). Thus, the teaching-
learning processes are repeated, as the teachers teach in
the same way as they were taught (Syrmpas and
Digelidis 2014).
In practice the zapateado is usually performed on the
beat of the different flamenco styles, which in itself is
versatile and flexible (Berlanga 2014). In view of this, it
would be useful to consider studies from different disci-
plines to improve teaching (Kroher et al. 2016), given that
a number of research works also highlight how music
training can help facilitate auditory discrimination skills
(Guastavino et al. 2009). Zapateado is a form of body
percussion and so should have models from existing
studies relating to its teaching (Romero 2013). The
rhythms performed in movement with zapateado must
be understood in the same way as traditional methods,
such as Dalcroze (Juntunen and Hyvönen 2004)—using
corporal movement for learning rhythm (Vernia Carrasco
2014). Various studies link the rhythm of spoken language
to that of music (Patel and Daniele 2003). One of the
resources used in music education to learn about rhythm,
that links to speech is syllable matching. This technique
involves matching a syllable to each rhythmic stamp of the
foot. It is used in various music teaching methods such as
those by Kodaly (Gérard 1991) and Hemsy de Gainza
(2002) and could be employed for learning the zapateado
rhythms. Accordingly, corporal movement for learning
rhythm along with syllable matching could be used as
a resource when teaching flamenco zapateado.
In essence, the analytic strategy employed in physical
education (Delgado 1991) could also be used with fla-
menco dance students, along with methodologies and
resources for learning rhythm that are common in
music education, in particular for practicing zapateado
rhythm. It can also help motivate learning, given that
authors such as Vallerand and Rousseau (2001) note the
importance of motivation in the teaching-learning pro-
cess. In essence, the analytic strategy used in physical
education (Delgado 1991), together with music resources
for learning rhythm employed in music education
(Gérard 1991; Hemsy de Gainza 2002) can be applied
to the learning of flamenco zapateado. This methodology,
based on analysis and understanding could also serve to
motivate the student’s learning (Vallerand and Rousseau
2001). People display general motivation toward achieve-
ment, encompassing both their emotional inclination
and their awareness of the value of what they are going
to learn, such as self-evaluation of their own compe-
tences, and the effect of success and failure in this field
(Ruiz-Pérez et al. 2015). Nonetheless, the teacher plays an
important role in creating a motivational atmosphere in
class (González-Cutre, Sicilia, and Moreno-Murcia 2011).
It is therefore worth considering whether a change in
strategy and methodology for practicing zapateado
could increase performers’ motivation. Similarly, could
a change in how zapateado is practiced improve rhyth-
mic precision in its execution?
Research Hypothesis
The research hypothesis is that zapateado teaching
methodology based on syllable matching (word-
rhythm) and the analytic strategy could be better teach-
ing options than traditional ones. This method could
improve rhythmic precision and increase the motivation
of professional flamenco dancers.
This was a quasi-experimental study with a sample com-
prising 12 professional flamenco dancers, between the
ages of 25 and 51, working in different locations in the
city of Madrid during 2018. Many of these individuals
lack formal studies in dance, and those that do have
qualifications belong to dance study plans that existed
before Organic Law 1/1990 of October 3 on the general
regulation of the educational system, which means that
in both cases they lacked music training.
Achievement Motivation in Physical Education Test
The Achievement Motivation in Physical Education Test
(AMPET) was the instrument used in the study to mea-
sure motivation. It has been translated and validated for
the Spanish language to measure learning motivation for
physical education (Nishida , 1988, 1989, 1991). The
Spanish version (Ruiz-Pérez et al. 2015) comprises 32
items in four dimensions, graded on a Likert-type scale.
This questionnaire asks the respondent to indicate the
degree of agreement or disagreement with a statement
or item, using an ordered and unidimensional scale
(Matas-Terrón 2018). In this study each item was
accompanied by five answer options, from 1 (completely
disagree) to 5 (completely agree).
The internal consistency of the original instrument
was high (.86), as was the test–retest correlation coeffi-
cient (.87). Internal consistency estimates relate to
homogeneity, or the degree to which the items on
a test jointly measure the same construct (Henson 2001).
To carry out this research, we selected the following
dimensions: self-perceived competence of motor ability
(items 4, 8, 12, 19, 22, 29, and 30); compared competence
of motor ability (items 3, 7, 11, 18, and 25); commitment
to learning (items 2, 6, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 28, and 31); and
failure anxiety (items 1, 5, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, and 32).
We used the IBM SPSS version 24 for Windows statistics
program to analyze the data obtained. Testing the sam-
ple for normality using the Kolmogorov Smirnov test
(K–S test) showed that the variables did not display
a normal distribution: self-perceived competence of
motor ability (Z = 0.49; p = .96); compared competence
of motor ability (Z = 0.64; p = .79); commitment to
learning (Z = 0.64; p = .79); failure anxiety (Z = 0.50;
p = .96), so nonparametric statistics were used to analyze
We used the Mann–Whitney U test for independent
samples to analyze the difference between the learning
motivation of the groups. The confidence interval was
95% and the level of significance was set at α = 0.05.
Finally, we used Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient
to identify the correlations between the learning motiva-
tion in each group (control and experimental). The
confidence interval was 95% and the level of significance
was set at α = 0.05.
Sonic Visualizer
For data analysis, we used the Sonic Visualizer devel-
oped by Queen Mary University of London (Cannam,
Landone, and Sandler 2010). The Sonic Visualizer is an
open-source tool for researchers, focused on the analysis
of audio recordings, that makes it possible to easily make
notations to identify deviations with respect to
a metronomic beat. Using the Sonic Visualizer, we
determined rhythmic precision by calculating the devia-
tion from the mean of the temporal distances. This tool
enables specification of the rhythmic beats of the dan-
cers and exports the data to an Excel sheet for analysis.
We conducted the study in a rehearsal room with com-
puter equipment including a sound card, microphones,
and a video camera. Firstly, the sound files for the
zapateado rhythms suggested to the 12 dancers were
recorded. Quaver, triplet, and semiquaver beats were
used, with two different steps: sole and sole–heel, and
we used version 2.0.5 of the Amadeus Pro program.
Once we had collected these data, we separated the
groups at random. The dancers were asked to practice
the same rhythms and steps with which the pretest data
had been collected for 40 minutes. Group 1, the experi-
mental group, moved to a neighboring room with the
teacher who was to apply the specific methodology,
based on syllable matching (word-rhythm) and the ana-
lytic strategy. She had over 20 years experience in teach-
ing zapateado using the analytic strategy along with
music teaching resources. Group 2 practiced in the tra-
ditional way, using the global strategy—memorizing and
repetition—in the same rehearsal room where the sam-
ples had been recorded. Once the 40 minutes had
passed, both groups were given the AMPET question-
naire on learning motivation for physical education
(Ruiz-Pérez et al. 2015). Next, after the different rehear-
sals, we recorded audio files for a second time, with the
same rhythms as presented in the pretest, using
Amadeus Pro software. After a few days, the audio files
were edited, separating the tracks by type of rhythm and
analyzing each of them using the Sonic Visualizer 3.3
Table 1 shows that the control group displayed higher
scores in all dimensions other than commitment to
learning, where the experimental group had a slightly
higher score (Mean = 2.43) than the control group
(Mean = 4.48). However, there were no statistically sig-
nificant differences between learning motivation and
type of teaching (p > .05).
Table 2 shows the experimental group’s results in the
following dimensions: self-perceived motor ability, com-
pared motor ability, commitment to learning, and failure
anxiety. It is apparent that there are positive and highly
significant correlations between self-perceived motor
ability and compared motor ability (r = .943; p < .01).
Likewise, there is a high and positive correlation
between compared motor ability and commitment to
learning (r = .886; p < .01). Finally, failure anxiety has
a strong negative relationship with self-perceived motor
ability (r = −.986; p < .01) and compared motor ability
(r = −.899; p < .01).
Regarding the control group’s results in relation to
the dimensions—self-perceived motor ability, compared
motor ability, learning motivation, and failure anxiety
Table 3 shows that there is only one significant correla-
tion, which is very high and negative, between failure
anxiety and commitment to learning (r = −.870; p = .02).
Sonic Visualizer
Using this program, with the visual interface, we manu-
ally notated and measured the time differences between
the dancers’ percussions. Table 4 shows the standard
deviation (SD) for the experimental and control groups
before (Pre) and after (Post) the intervention. The per-
centage improvement is calculated assuming 100%
improvement at post standard deviation equal to zero,
Post SD = 0, which would be a perfect metronomic
improvement ¼Pre SD Post SD
Pre SD
The most significant percentage improvement was in the
sole–heel quaver beat (46.6%). For example, Figures 1
and 2 illustrate the data obtained from one dancer before
and after the intervention. The horizontal axis shows the
identifier of the percussion and the vertical axis shows
the time in milliseconds between percussions. A clear
irregularity and even a loss of the beat around percus-
sion number 20 is visible.
The experimental group obtained more correlations
between the different dimensions than the control
group. There are positive and highly significant correla-
tions between self-perceived motor ability and com-
pared motor ability, and between compared motor
ability and commitment to learning. It is worth noting
that the dancers in the experimental group reported that
the greater their self-perceived motor ability and com-
pared motor ability, the lesser their failure anxiety. For
their part, the dancers from the control group believed
that the greater the commitment to learning, the lesser
the failure anxiety. The innovative methodology that
Table 1. Descriptive statistics for the control and experimental
U test
Mean SD Mean SD p Z
Perceived motor ability 3.35 .76 3.68 .518 .42 −0,80
Compared motor ability 2.43 .55 3.03 .36 .05 −1,93
Commitment to learning 4.53 .44 4.48 .29 .57 −0,56
Failure anxiety 2.74 .73 2.88 .70 .81 −0,24
Table 2. Experimental group correlations.
motor ability
Perceived motor
1.000 .943** .771 −.986**
.005 .072 .000
1.000 .886* −.899*
.019 .015
Commitment to
1.000 −.754
Failure anxiety 1.000
** The correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed).
* The correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (two-tailed).
Table 3. Control group correlations.
motor ability
Perceived motor
1.000 .324 .609 −.486
.531 .200 .329
1.000 .134 −.147
.800 .781
Commitment to
1.000 −.870*
Failure anxiety 1.000
** The correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed).
* The correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (two-tailed).
Table 4. Data obtained through analysis with sonic Visualizer.
Experimental group Control group
Pre SD Post SD % improvement Pre SD Post SD % improvement
Sole–Heel Semiquaver 39.89 32.30 19.03 39.89 38.02 4.69
Sole Semiquaver 26.13 24.24 7.23 31.34 25.62 18.25
Sole–Heel Quaver 17.84 9.53 46.6 13.18 9.32 29.28
Sole Quaver 8.46 9.01 −6.50 13.56 8.64 36.28
Sole–Heel Triplets 16.85 16.51 2.01 20.61 17.37 14.99
Sole Triplets 14.95 17.05 −14.04 15.23 16.37 −7.48
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Sole–Heel Quaver Pre
Figure 1. Dancer No. 8 (Experimental Group) with sole–heel quaver beat before the intervention (Pre) The horizontal axis indicates the
number of beats and the vertical axis indicates the time between beats in milliseconds.
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Sole–Heel Quaver Post
Figure 2. Dancer no. 8 (Experimental Group) with sole–heel quaver beat after the intervention (Post). The horizontal axis indicates the
number of beats and the vertical axis indicates the time between beats in milliseconds.
was used with the experimental group, through the
analytic strategy, endowed the students with more invol-
vement in, and responsibility for, their own learning
process (Fructuoso and Gómez 2001), obtaining better
The experimental group also showed better results in
the data obtained for rhythmic precision with the Sonic
Visualizer tool. Examples of temporal analysis to deter-
mine characteristics in recordings can be found, for
example, in the “Mazurka Project
although not with
the didactic aim of improving rhythmic skills in the
educational field. Various universities and entities are
working together to create plugins to detect the beat
automatically, although for reasons of precision we
chose to use manual analysis. A potential expansion of
this research to include more subjects would require
automated analysis and a comparison of various
“Vamp Plugins
for detecting and tracking the beat
(Bello et al. 2005; Elowsson 2016) in order to identify
the most reliable ones for our research.
With regards to the methodology used in the experi-
mental group, we applied syllable matching as a strategy
for teaching rhythm as well as proposing other music
teaching methods (Gérard 1991; Hemsy de Gainza
2002). We should note that rhythm is situated within
a broader framework of human cognition (Bispham
2006) and that some temporal processes might be uni-
versal, as they operate in similar ways, independent of
the culture of the individual and their exposure and
experience (Drake and Bertrand 2001).
The results set out here show how the experimental
group attained better results than the control group in
their performance of the quaver beat after practice. It
should be noted that rhythm and synchronization
have not been extensively considered in music theory
because of the methodological difficulties that arise
when trying to study music with sound (Honing
2002). The improvement in the performance of the
quaver beat by the experimental group, after applying
the analytic strategy, may support studies that show
that conscious awareness and attention are required
for sensorimotor synchronization in time changes
(Repp and Keller 2004). Therefore, improving rehear-
sal strategy is a higher priority than spending more
time on rehearsals, as shown by the results of studies
that found that the strategies used during piano prac-
tice have a greater effect on the quality of the perfor-
mance than the time pianists spend practicing (Duke,
Simmons, and Cash 2009). Consequently, teachers
must invest in their teacher training and the strategies
they use in their teaching practice since, just as musi-
cians must learn to play, teachers must learn to teach
(Robinson 2012) using the analytic strategy and
rhythmic education. Furthermore, these alternative
strategies could make it possible for students to
choose their preferred focus for studying rhythm,
such as using a metronome or changing rhythms
(Hallam 1995).
As a final conclusion, we should note that for learning
flamenco dance, beyond questions of nationality and
type of teaching (formal, non-formal and informal),
offering an innovative methodology can make students
more active participants and give them more responsi-
bility for their own learning (Gentile 1998). Moreover,
the use of strategies and resources employed in physical
education and music education can improve perfor-
mance in flamenco dance, specifically in the zapateado
For future research, it should be considered that this
methodology can also be applied to other dances in
which sounds are made with the body, like tap dance,
Malambo, and some styles of Indian classical dance.
1. The Mazurka Project is a project led by the Royal
Holloway Department of Music, funded by the Arts
and Humanities Research Council. Its objective is to
analyze historical recordings using digital tools http://
2. Vamp Plugins act as pieces of external software developed
by third parties to introduce automation into data analysis
in Sonic Visualiser.
Disclosure Statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
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Although playing by ear has important benefits for the development of musicianship, one-to-one instrumental teaching has traditionally overlooked it. The current research describes the strategies applied by three woodwind teachers with their students in a Spanish music school through a multiple-case embedded study. Data were collected through multiple choice questionnaires, interviews and the observation of lessons. They were analysed according to the strategies applied, the teachers’ expertise in playing by ear as performers, and the inclusion of playing by ear in their regular teaching as a result of participating in this research. The results show that the strategies of these teachers, when including some pre-designed tasks in their lessons to develop playing by ear, were influenced by the teachers’ biographies and teaching styles. Ultimately, the description of these features may be useful in prospective design of teaching methods aimed at developing playing by ear in instrumental lessons.
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Resumen El rimo es parte esencial cuando hablamos de música y se erige como la base de esta para el desarrollo y aprendizaje, siendo una de las partes más dificultosas en el aprendizaje del lenguaje musical. Música y movimiento siempre han caminando juntos siendo el ritmo el punto de unión, así, música y danza forman un tándem perfecto para el aprendizaje musical. En muchas culturas no occidentales la música va atada al movimiento pasando a ser una experiencia multisensorial incluyendo además del oído otro sentido implicando también el movimiento. Palabras Clave Ritmo – cuerpo – Educación musical – Competencia rítmica 1. Introducción Es común oír la frase " sin ritmo no hay música " .Es evidente que hablar de ritmo en música nos deja un amplio abanico de posibilidades, pues como ya serializaron en su