|Joaquin Cortes in Concert.|
Joaquin Pedraja Reyes was born in Cordoba in 1969 and, as a young gypsy, was encouraged to dance by his uncle Cristóbal Reyes. He started to learn the basics of dance when he was twelve but it was when he went to Madrid that his passion for the dance really began.
At the age of fifteen this young man presented himself for an audition with the Ballet Nacional de España and he was soon to find his feet with them and within a short period, as Joaquín Cortés, he became one of their principle dancers.
He traveled the world with the National Ballet appearing at diverse venues including the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and the Congress Palace at the Kremlin in Moscow.
After leaving the National Ballet, Joaquín Cortés went on to work with numerous dance companies including the Caracas Ballet, with whom he performed the classic Don Quixote, and he also choreographed the Mérimée classic, Carmen, which was presented at the Arena in Verona.
In 1992, after a stint at the Champs Elysée Theater in Paris, Joaquín Cortés formed his own dance company under the heading of the Joaquín Cortés Flamenco Ballet and traveled the world with his first solo production, Cibayi.
But it was his second production, Pasíon Gitana, that gave him international fame and this production was received in over thirty countries and seen by more than one million people.
Pasíon Gitana opened in 1995 and with the help of his friend Giorgio Armani, who designed the wardrobe for the show; he conquered Spain, Europe, and eventually the world.
Joaquín Cortés was to become one of the faces of the decade; his portrait adorned fashion magazines and publicity posters, and with his designer image and entourage of famous friends, he became a national and international star. He became the dancer who gave flamenco the “Glamorous model” image and his brief affair with top model Naomi Campbell had the paparazzi and glossy magazines watching his every move.
In 1996 he took the show Pasíon Gitana to America, where he became the first Spanish dancer to headline at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. In 1997 he revamped the show and then took it to Japan, Australia, and Latin America gaining hoards of new disciples along the way. He also formed his own group, The Gypsy Passion Band, which released a Cd by the same name, on which Joaquín Cortés was the musical director and percussionist.
Cortés is one of Spain’s top flamenco dancers and even though his style is based more on ballet and contemporary dance styles, his roots are firmly fixed on the gypsy tradition of flamenco.
He is also no stranger to the world of the movies, appearing in the film La Flor de mi Secreto, in 1995 and the Carlos Saura film, Flamenco, in 1996, where he danced a farruca, bare chest, again displaying his role model image. (There is a story that says Joaquín Cortés asked Saura if he could dance the scene naked, but that is just a rumor.)
He also had a leading role in the film Gitano (2000) and in 2004 he appeared in the film Vaniglia e Cioccolato. (Vanilla and Chocolate)
Today Joaquín Cortés spends much of his time as a choreographer and artistic director, although he continues to dance in a limited capacity, filling bullrings, theaters, and opera houses worldwide.
His appearance at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in 2003 was recorded for a live video, on which he went back to the basics of his roots.
The show was a collection of flamenco styles including the martinete, buleria, alegria, and siguiriya, which he danced solo with just the backing of a traditional flamenco quadro, and not the big ballet style productions that the public had become used to. The DVD also contains an interview with the artiste as well as a behind the scenes look at the rehearsals for the show.
One of Joaquín´s latest projects is the Gitana Cortés Company, which is a company he set up to help showcase some of Spain’s up and coming artistes. With this company he dedicates his time and knowledge to helping unknown youngsters in a similar way to Manuel Morao`s Gitanos de Jerez. Their first production, De Amor y Odio, (Of love and Hate) is a reflection of the war torn chaotic society that we live in today. It is a mixture of flamenco, contemporary and classical dance styles. The wardrobe, once again, was created by his long-term associate, Giorgio Armani.
Joaquín Cortés has come a long way from his early influences, like Antonio Gades, whose version of Bodas de Sangre, inspired a young Cortés, as did simply being in the streets of Madrid. Joaquín Cortés is an innovator who has played a massive role in creating a new direction for flamenco, a direction that has given flamenco the worldwide recognition and attention that it needed.
This icon of a man is also responsible for giving flamenco a glamorous and fashionable image, something for which he has as many detractors as supporters, but this image has made him a world famous artiste.
Even though the likes of Cristina Hoyos or Antonio el Pipa have long been taking flamenco worldwide, it is Joaquín Cortés who has crusaded like a gypsy warrior, conquering the younger generation in all corners of the globe with his dazzling brilliance.
Tony Bryant is author of Flamenco An Englishman’s Passion and Flamenco a Tale of Three Cities