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Fancy footwork

23 October 2012

I attended a performance by Citali Iglesias’ Mirabras Flamenco this weekend but any of the videos I’ve been able to find of her work aren’t all that good. The videos, not the flamenco. So, I’ll go with one of the classics… though I don’t know what movie this was from.

According to legend, the night Carmen Amaya was born (2 November 1913) there was a storm that had the shutters of all the houses of Barcelona clattering in rhythm.  Maybe, but being born into a Gypsy family that produced several well-known dancers and musicians had something to do with her forty year career as a professional flamenco dancer (starting at age 10) and her continuing fame as the greatest of all flamencos.

She was already a celebrity throughout Spain when she first began appearing in films, making her a star throughout not only the Iberian Peninsula but throughout Latin America as well.  As a follow-up to her successful appearance in the 1935 “Maria de la O” she embarked on a tour of the Spanish provinces, but the outbreak of the Civil War, forced her to flee to Portugal and led to a surprising career not just in Iberia and Latin America, but  in England, France and especially in the United States.  She entertained U.S. troops during the Second World War and gave a special performance for Franklin Roosevelt in 1944.

Although she returned to Spain in 1947,  she continued touring Europe and the Americas until her death of kidney failure at the relatively early age of 50.

I believe this was from her last film, Los Tarantos, made when she was already dying.  It is unique not just for being in color, but for giving her a chance to perform her art not as an  exotic and theatrical experience, but as what it always was to Amaya… an essential expression of her people and culture.

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