Carmen Amaya - Queen of Dance
The Proud and Passionate Gypsy Queen of Dance
There was no one like Carmen Amaya.
Through her artistry and virtuosity, she effectively altered the history of flamenco dance forever. She crossed the traditional boundaries of flamenco with the fast and furious footwork usually reserved for the male dancer.
Her only teacher was her instinct. Her school was the street.
Amaya's artistry took her from humble and poor origins to win the admiration of the Queen of England, US President Roosevelt, and she captured the hearts of audiences all over the world.
Flamenco today is deeply indebted to Carmen Amaya.
Passion was her Middle Name
I discovered Carmen Amaya in an old film
I first saw Carmen Amaya sometime in 1975 on an old movie late at night. She literally took my breath away.
I kept looking for that old movie and, when it was replayed some four years later, I was ready with my video recorder. Sadly, the videotape degraded and these days I don't even have a player.
To my delight, someone else recorded her dance scene and I found it on youtube
Carmen Amaya in "Maria de la O" 1939.
This is where I first saw Carmen Amaya.
The film is a little scratchy in places but nothing can dim the passion of her dance.
"She was from the race of the rebels who show that there is suffering in their dancing, like there is suffering in existence, and a rage for living. It is a dance that is marked by fire, whose thirst could only be quenched through death"
Patrick Bensard, Cinemathetique of Dance
A passionate and powerful woman dancing a man's dance
This clip shows Amaya's ferocity and high-impact footwork in the male style which shocked traditional Flamenco devotees.
Song of the Outcasts
By setting the artform of Flamenco in its social, political, economic, geographic, religious and psychological context, the selections on the cd take you to a deeper understanding of this thrilling expression of the human spirit
A great Bailaora (dancer) of the 20th century - Amaya could leap like a leopard
Carmen Amaya was one of the most outstanding bailaoras of the twentieth century.
She was born in the run down gypsy barrio of Somorrostro into a long line of gypsy flamenco performers. Her grandfather, Juan Amaya Jiminez, was a dancer, her father, El Chino, was a flamenco guitarist and her aunt, La Faraona, another flamenco dancer from the equally gypsy district of El Sacromonte in Granada.
Amaya's hard masculine style of dance was often copied, but to this day there has never been a dancer to match her ferocious style. Her fast rattling foot work became her signature and it is said that on several occasions she actually put her foot through the stage while performing.
She will be remembered as the dancer who wore the Traje corto, a tight fitting suit, normally worn by men. But her dance was still feminine, very much so.
She turned with speed and perfection, arching her body and often rising into the air, driven by great physical strength and furious passion. Amaya conquered all who saw her with her gypsy beauty and magical presence.
I want to tango!
If only I could dance! I'm told that the tango is the easiest of all the ballroom dances to begin dancing, and to begin dancing well.
© 2009 Susanna Duffy