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Carmen Amaya - Queen of Dance

Updated on September 18, 2014

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.

Festival 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

Song of the Outcasts: An Introduction to Flamenco Hardcover with CD
Song of the Outcasts: An Introduction to Flamenco Hardcover with CD

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!

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

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    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      @xposedbydesign: Wish I could dance like her!

    • xposedbydesign profile image

      xposedbydesign 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      ihath 6 years ago

      Queen of the gypsies

    • Didijudy profile image

      Didijudy 6 years ago from Canada

      Who wouldn't love to dance like Carmen Amaya....she takes my breath away!!! Could watch her dance all day. She was on fire...such great passion for dancing. Thank you for the great lens.

    • jmorgan17 lm profile image

      jmorgan17 lm 7 years ago

      What a passionate dancer and her zapateado truly amazed me, very expressive hands and eyes, her whole body tells a story. I am going to have to share this with my spanish dancing enthusiasts. I have never heard of her until now. Really great photos.

    • Mythological profile image

      Mythological 8 years ago

      Wowee. What a woman! That was very beautiful and a good lens! Thanks for searching for the videos to add. I could never move like that.

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image

      eclecticeducati1 8 years ago

      I had never heard of her. Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful dancer.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Your photographs are amazing! Great lens :)

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 8 years ago from Minnesota

      Terrific lens on someone I had never heard of before. I love learning new things. Just for fun I googled for the definition of bailaora to see what else I could learn and only found one response that wasn't in Spanish! Very cool.

    • Rich-H profile image

      Rich 8 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      I must admit she is someone I was unaware of up until now. What a fabulous talent, and what a passionate showcase for it.

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 8 years ago

      Oh my. I love Flamenco dancing. The video that you titled A passionate and powerful woman dancing a man's dance is amazing. How different she dances in each of the clips. I love the castanets but how amazing they are when just snapping. I want to be Flamenco dancer when I grow up. Sometimes I change my mind and want to be a belly dancer :) . Love this lens.

    • MsSnow4 profile image

      Carol Goss 8 years ago

      Oh i so love to dance. Thanks :)

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Those are some fast feet! What a talented woman.

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