During the peak of her career in the 40's and 50's, Carmen
was an international cultural icon who combined fury with tenderness—a
wild, exotic woman with the fierce pride of Spain and the uncontrolled
vagrancy of the Gypsy spirit.
Carmen Amaya's career began at the age of four and throughout her childhood,
she performed alongside her father in the taverns and music halls of Barcelona.
By the time she reached her teens, she was on her way to becoming an international
success, having received accolades from audiences in Madrid and Paris.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's, Amaya traveled
the world and achieved her greatest fame in the Americas, mesmerizing
audiences from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, to Mexico and the United States.
Fueled by romantic images of Spain, exotic gypsies, toreadors, and dons,
the North and South America fell in love with Carmen Amaya--the embodiment
of Spanish pride and passion. She made films in Hollywood, appeared on
Broadway, danced for Roosevelt and Churchill, and toured the world--often
accompanied by the great guitar virtuoso, Sabicas. And though she triumphed
on stages all around the world, she always remained true to her Gypsy
heritage. Throughout most of her performing life, her huge company was
made up almost entirely of
her extended family, and they traveled together in the traditional Gypsy
way, sharing their luck as well as their hardships. And hardship indeed
fell on Carmen Amaya. In 1963 at the age of 50, she died in her native
Barcelona of kidney failure.
today is deeply indebted to Carmen Amaya. Through her artistry and virtuosity,
she effectively altered the history of flamenco dance forever. She crossed
the traditional boundaries of flamenco by teaching herself the fast and
furious footwork usually reserved for the male dancer. Donning a man's
pants and jacket, she skillfully combined the elegance and grace of the
female style with the ferocity and high-impact footwork of the male style
sending shockwaves through the flamenco world unaccustomed to seeing a
passionate and powerful woman in pants dancing a man's dance. Today, her
legend lives on. The influence of the proud and passionate Gypsy woman
taking her art to its limits is visible today in her great-niece, Omayra