Where Did The Zapateado Dance Come From?

Said to be one of the best representations of the lively spirit of the Spanish people, the Zapeateado dance has sparked the intrigue of many dance enthusiasts around the world. 

Although the dance has been around since the 17th century, it’s still popular today in many dancing clubs, studios, and circles.

But despite its enduring popularity, the true origin and history of the Zapateado, however, aren’t known by many.

In this article, we will delve into the Zapateado dance’s roots, origins, evolution, and cultural significance. By the end of this article, you’ll know all about the roots of this special dance and more!

What Is Zapateado Dance?

The Zapateado dance is a traditional folk dance that originated in Spain. Later, the dance – like many other facets of the Spanish culture – spread to its colonies in the New World like Mexico and other Latin American nations.

The dance is characterized by the rhythmic tapping of the feet, accompanied by traditional Spanish instruments like castanets and guitars. 

The dance is primarily a social dance typically performed in pairs or small groups. 

The dancers use intricate footwork patterns (which can involve stomping, tapping, and sliding of the feet) to create a complex, lively rhythm that is extremely lively.

The footwork is the most important part of the dance. After all, the name of the dance (Zapateado) comes from the Spanish word “Zapato”, meaning “shoe”. It refers to the striking motion of the dancer’s shoes as they strike the floor.

Typically, you’ll see the Zapateado performed in many traditional celebrations and community events, such as weddings, fiestas, and festivals.

Check more: Bolero Dance: Origin, Types, Steps, Costume, Music

Zapateado Dance Origin & History

The Zapateado dance has its roots in Spain and came about sometime in the 17th century. It was developed as a traditional court dance in the Andalusia region.

As the Spanish Empire expanded to the New World and took over the lands that are now modern-day Mexico and Latin America, the Zapateado dance was brought along with the Spanish fleet. 

As they were adopted by the natives, the Zapateado evolved into different regional styles.

That’s why, other than in Spain, you’ll also see different flavors of the Zapateado in countries like Mexico.

In Mexico, the Zapateado dance became an important part of the country’s cultural heritage, and it is still widely performed in traditional celebrations and festivals. 

“Mexican Zapateado dance is characterized by the use of a special pair of dancing shoes (called zapateados) to create a sharp sound as the dancer strikes the ground with the soles of their shoes.”

That’s why it’s occasionally called “Zapateado tap dancing”!

Today, the Zapateado dance is celebrated as an important part of Spanish and Latin American cultural heritage. And, it is still performed in many traditional celebrations and festivals worldwide. 

The dance continues evolving and adapting to new cultural influences while maintaining its unique and distinctive character.

The Importance Of Zapateado In Flamenco

In Flamenco, the Zapateado is part of the performance. It’s embodied in how the dancers perform their footwork and accompany the beat of the music with the soles of their dance shoes. 

And because its rhythm is the best part of Flamenco, many people have stated (rightfully!) that the spirit of Zapateado is an integral and inseparable part of Flamenco.

But besides highlighting the rhythm of the dance, the role of Zapateado in Flamenco also extends into bringing out the improvisational nature of Flamenco. 

Since improvisation is a key part of the original Zapateado, the way that Flamenco dancers must adapt their footwork and flexibly respond to changes in the music also evoke the image of Zapateado dancers of old.

So, why it may seem like these two dances have nothing in common with one another, Flamenco won’t be the same without parts of Zapateado in it!

How To Dance Zapateado

Zapateado can take years to master properly, and you’ll definitely need to sign up for a class. 

An instructor will be extremely helpful in not just helping you grasp the basic Zapateado dance steps, but also teaching you how to dance safely without injuring yourself. 

There are a lot of fast-paced moves in Zapateado that may carry a risk of injury, especially in your legs and feet.

How “fast-paced” are we talking about here?

Well, according to Louie, the creator of Louie’s Life channel on YouTube, whose Zapateado tutorials have attracted millions of views: “If you’re not dangerously close to breaking a heel, you’re not doing Zapateado right.”

And no: this is not an endorsement to literally dance your heel off! Dance however forcefully and enthusiastically you want, but do it right and safely.

That’s why the technique is so important.

In this next section, we’ll be discussing a few basic Zapateado techniques to get you up to speed with the foundations.

First, get into position. You can take three preparatory steps.

  1. Stand with your feet apart, making sure they’re the same distance as the length of your shoes.
  2. Check your posture and pull up your body.
  3. Slightly bend your knees.

The Zapateado is separated into two halves (or cycles): a right cycle and a left cycle.

To perform the right cycle, follow three steps.

  1. Strike your right foot flat against the ground, so the whole of your sole makes contact (this is called a “flat strike”).
  2. Strike the heel of your left foot against the ground by angling your left foot upward (this is called a “heel strike”).
  3. Cap off the motion with another flat strike with your right foot.

To perform the left cycle, there are also three steps like the above – just alternate the feet!

  1. Flat strike with your left foot.
  2. Heel strike with your right foot.
  3. Then flat strike with your left foot.

That completes one whole dance cycle! You can repeat this motion on and on until the music stops.

Notable Zapateado Dance YouTube Channels

If you either can’t afford or can’t find an instructor that teaches the Zapateado in your local area, you can practice at home with the help of online YouTube channels. 

They can also be a good resource for recordings if you simply want to know what the Zapateado looks like when it’s done by a professional.

One of the highest recommended channels today is Louie’s Life (which we mentioned earlier). A San Joe native, he’s been making dance videos for years and one of his viral videos – a recording in which he performed the Zapateado – has racked up to 5 million views!

And of course, if you want channels that are a little bit more “formal” and can give you some pointers on how to properly dance the Zapateado, there are tons of Latin dance channels on YouTube that can show you the basic.

This tutorial from Tiburcio has reached over 1 million views.

Zapateado Dance Music & Songs

The Zapateado, like most Latin dances out there, has huge albums devoted to it over the years. There’s no shortage of good Zapateado dance music for you to listen to whenever you’re in the mood. 

These songs often have a high tempo and are performed by a band of classical instruments like strings, guitars, castanets, etc.

Here are a couple of good Zapateado songs for you to check out:

  1. “Zapateado Encabronado” by Los Rieleros Del Norte
  2. “Zapateado Mix” by Los Tigres del Norte
  3. “El Toro Rabón” by Eliseo Robles y Los Barbaros Del Norte
  4. “El Zapateado” by Grupo Laberinto
  5. “Zapateado Loco” by Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon
  6. “La Negra Tomasa” by Caifanes
  7. “El Zopilote Mojado” by Los Cadetes de Linares
  8. “El Gallito” by Grupo Montez de Durango
  9. “La Malagueña” by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán
  10. “Zapateado Arribeño” by Mariachi Sol de Mexico

For fans of classical music, then you may have heard of Zapateado through Pablo de Sarasate’s titular Zapateado (as part of his Spanish Dances suite, Op.23). 

This piece really shows how fast the tempo as well as how lively the spirit of this dance is!

Final Words

Originating from Spain in the 17th century, the Zapateado dance has spread from Europe to Latin America and now – in the 21st century – all around the globe with its infectious, lively energy. 

You can find it being performed in just about every Latin dance competition these days (albeit in different forms as part of other dances such as Flamenco.)

We hope this article has answered all of the questions you may have about the Zapateado! 

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Also, what’s your favorite part about this dance? We’d love to hear from you on this, too!

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