Yes we know, it seems like a contradiction in terms. Isn't Flamenco all about following and holding the compás? Compás is everything! Of course, that's true, and when you start learning you need to understand the different time signatures and how the steps fit within the rhythms. But once you know the basics it's time to stop counting.
Those of us not born into Flamenco families, who haven't been exposed to the different types of compás before we even leave the womb, we learn compás by counting. We learn the steps by counting - what beat to come in on, how the step fits into the music. We count the number of compás in the letra, the number of times a phrase is repeated. But this can only take us so far.
A friend of mine visited me in Spain and sat in on one of my classes. She'd taken a few Flamenco classes in the UK, but was very confused as to how we all knew what was going on and when to come in. It wasn't a language problem, it was the fact that the teacher never counted us in. We were dancing por Alegría and she would simply shout
Taca Tan, Taca TAN and we all knew exactly where we were. It seemed so obvious to us - she was vocalizing the
7,8,9,10 without saying the words - she was transmitting the music rather than the maths.
To be honest, the more advanced you get, you'll find that most steps are just too complicated to even try to count! Try asking an advanced student or teacher to count one of their more complicated steps - they might have more trouble than you'd expect. That's because they've probably never tried to count it before - there's no need, they can just hear the rhythm in their heads and know where it fits into the compás. You need to listen to the music of the steps ‑ you should be able to sing the rhythm in your head. Remember, Flamenco footwork is often very percussive - we're musicians in our own right - and once you hear the music there's no more need for the numbers.
It might feel strange at first, but the more you sing the rhythm the more it will become part of you. Counting just doesn't cut it!