Contributing to a rich history, the most famous Flamenco dancers are rich in cultural dance flair. They are also, perhaps unsurprisingly, also teachers and public ambassadors for both their art and their culture. As a result, flamenco has spread throughout the world.
In a strange way, flamenco as an art form is most similar to hip-hop. It is a collaboration between the musicians (most notably guitarists and singers), and the dancers. Originating in the Andalusian region of Spain, flamenco has been adopted not only by all of Spain, but also as a form of expression in other Latin countries such as Argentina. The origins of the name are unknown, though the first uses of the term were in the 18th century, describing the "gypsy" dances. With that kind of a long history, it is no wonder that there have been many world-famous flamenco dancers.
Long and Illustrious Careers
One of the aspects of flamenco dance that sets it apart from many other movement arts is the amount of experience that is considered necessary to be a truly good performer. This is not only dance training, but also the experience of life, and the ability to communicate the nuances of emotion that are so essential to the art. As a result, the careers of many flamenco dancers have lasted far longer than other dancers.
Vicente Escudero, born in 1887, lived to be 93 and was instrumental in spreading the worldwide appeal of masculine flamenco dancing. Prior to World War II, his shows were extremely successful, and his trademark austerity and unabashedly male expression brought him to the silver screen in both Spain and Hollywood. He was dedicated to furthering his art through writing books as well as painting, seeing all the arts intertwined.
La Argentina was a female Flamenco dancer who began her performing career at the age of nine, moving into a role as a lead ballerina at age eleven with the Madrid Opera. After the death of her father, she began studying the native Spanish dances, which at the time were not very respected in her area. However, she persisted, and ended up becoming very popular in Paris, performing at the Moulin Rouge, among other locations. This led to six tours across the ocean in the Americas, performing with the famous flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya. La Argentina unfortunately had a much shorter career than her peers, living only to the age of forty-six, but remains one of the most famous female flamenco dancers in history.
Famous Flamenco Dancers in the Modern Age
Thanks to digital media, the flamenco arts of music and dance are spreading worldwide. YouTube can show stars such as Joaquin Cortés, currently the most famous flamenco dancer alive. Aside from his own celebrity career, which includes endorsements, perfume lines and relationships with supermodels, his dance company has produced shows that fill stadiums. He has also been featured in Carlos Saura's film Flamenco (among other films).
The love affair between flamenco and film shows no sign of disappearing, with Chinese action film director John Woo casting the flamenco dancer and choreographer Sara Baras in the Tom Cruise blockbuster Mission Impossible: II. Baras, like many others, also has her own company, and has toured all over the world. She is one of the most respected bailaora's (dancers) in the world.
The list of flamenco dancers who enjoyed (or still enjoy) worldwide fame goes on and on: Antonio Canales, Eva la Yerbabuena, Rafael Amargo, Cristina Hoyos and more. One of the most extensive listings of dancers past and present can be found at Es Flamenco (along with many other Flamenco resources).
With dancers like José Greco as their example, the world of flamenco continues to flourish. Born in 1918, he was still performing onstage at age seventy-seven. Having had six children, all of whom performed flamenco in one way or another, Greco extended the tradition of flamenco and passed it on to a new generation, from whom the world is still enjoying the magic of flamenco.