General News

November General Assembly

November General Assembly

There was a good turnout at our second General Assembly back at the Polivalent in Murla last Thursday 4th November despite the wintry turn in the weather. The association business was quickly dispensed with reports that our membership numbers have continued to increase and the Groups are mostly all back up and running although some, such as Bridge are looking for more members.

With the business complete Angela Chantry gave us a very interesting talk about the life of Carmen Amaya, who many believe was the greatest flamenco dancer of all time. Angela had a few clips of Carmen performing from a very young age and one could imagine the majesty of such performance if filmed in 21st century photographic quality.

Carmen amayaCarmen was born in 1918 into a gypsy family in the shanty town of Somorrasto on the beach in Barcelona. The family had long been flamenco dancers and from an early age she was seen dancing with her mother, aunt and even her grandfather. She started dancing at Puerta de la Paz and then moved on to perform in restaurants and at the age of only 10 years she was invited to dance in Madrid, with her aunt, where she later had a lead role in a film, Maria de la O, then aged only 18.

The Spanish Civil War saw the family fleeing from Spain to South America, via Portugal. She debuted in Buenos Aires in 1936 with many famous dancers and flamenco players. She toured extensively in South America and was reported to be earning $14,000 per week in 1938. She failed in her first attempt to go to the USA, as she was illiterate and could not sign the immigration forms. However in 1941 she got to the USA and performed at Carnegie Hall, staying at the Waldorf Astoria in New York where she was reputed to have bought sardines from the market and a small cooker so she could prepare them in her bedroom!

In 1941 she adopted the use of tight matador trousers, like the male flamenco dancers, rather than the flowing skirts more usually associated with female flamenco performances. That year she also appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. She performed at the Hollywood Bowl, getting equal status to Frank Sinatra and other stars of that time, she was invited to perform for President Roosevelt and in 1953 for President Trueman. She starred in films, being recognised as a dancer, singer and actor.

In 1947 she returned to Spain and toured extensively in Europe, making the cover of Paris Match in 1950. In 1952 she performed for the poor people of Somarrasto and again after her last paid performance in 1963 she returned there to perform again. She retired to Girona where she died at the age of only 45 years and her body was subsequently moved to Santander.

There have been many documentaries of the life of Carmen Amaya.

Thank you Angela for telling us this amazing story.

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