King of flamenco Joaquin Cortes
When you hear or read the word ‘Spain’, what comes first to your head? Well, for a great many people Spain means bullfights, toreadors, Don Quixote and the passionate rhythms of flamenco. That is for people outside Spain. For those who live there flamenco is part of the culture of Andalusia, not of Spain in general. Gypsy music, traditional Andalusia folk songs and Arab melodies from Spain’s Moorish past have all played a part in creating this unique sound. The first flamenco schools appeared in Seville in the late 1700.
Early flamenco was purely vocal accompanied only by rhythmic clapping of hands, but soon the guitar became the core component. The sound of the guitar, the improvisation of the singer and the dramatic movements of the dancers – all these combined together make an unforgettable show.
Flamenco doesn’t need a stage. People dance it when they have something to celebrate, wherever they are – at home, in a cafe, in the street … But the dance requires skill and understanding.
Flamenco show is a must for every tourist visiting Spain, and as a result it was so often performed by dancers, who knew very little about the dance, so often imitated and so stereotyped, that true flamenco became something rare and difficult to come by. Top-quality performances could be seen only at flamenco festivals held throughout Andalusia in summer.
But in the 1980s flamenco reinvented itself and a new style – new flamenco – was created by a younger generation of flamenco artists, who used not only traditional music, but jazz, pop and South American melodies.
One of the artists who helped to make flamenco one of the most popular dance forms in the world today is Joaquin Cortes. “The sexiest Spanish icon since Antonio Banderas”, as the press describes him, is the most popular flamenco dancer today.
Born in Cordoba in 1969 into a gypsy family, Joaquin Cortes at the age of 12, moved to Madrid where he began his dance training. He joined the Spanish National Ballet when he was 15 and quickly rose to the ranks of solo artist. In 1996 he burst onto the international dance and music scene with his show Gypsy Passion. Since then he has toured all over the world with his company, performing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, London’s Albert Hall and the Kremlin’s Congress Palace in Moscow.
Cortes is a celebrity, people recognize him in the streets, he dances before royals and he is often seen at parties with models and stars. One of his friends is Giorgio Armani, who dresses Joaquin not only for his offstage appearances, but makes costumes for his shows. Joaquin tells him how the clothes are going to be used, how they have to move and Giorgio does the sketches. With his looks, his mane of black hair and Armani clothes it’s no wonder Joaquin is often called a sex symbol. He says, however, that when he sees himself in the mirror, he thinks: “Well, I’m sort of okay, but there are thousands of better-looking people walking down the street.”
A few years ago the press talked a lot about his relationship with supermodel Naomi Campbell, then there were rumors about him and Jennifer Lopez. Mass media reported how Emma Thompson prostrated herself before him, and how Madonna adores him and so does J-Lo, Mira Sorvino is among the women whose hearts he has (allegedly) broken. Male fans include Tarantino, Armani, Bertolucci and Sting. For Joaquin Cortes isn’t just a sex god. He’s the most famous flamenco dancer in the world.
But Joaquin likes to keep his private life private. As Cortes admits, ‘Dancing is my wife, my woman’ And meanwhile he makes his own choreography, he dances, he tours the world with his company. Once he said that he would retire at 33, but when the deadline was approaching he decided he still had a lot to do and he has plenty to occupy his time at present – new plans, new shows, and new dances.