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steeped in gypsy culture ‘dancing, singing and guitars have always been a part of my life’ he , began his classical ballet and flamenco studies at twelve years old. A year later, the Spanish National Ballet School beckoned and by eighteen, the prodigy had risen through its ranks to become lead dancer.

The restraints of classical ballet proved too much for the young buck and he broke away to form his own company in

I990. The trip to flamenco fusion was on course. Crowd hysteria, media saturation and Madonna’s adoration followed.

Gypsy culture underpins Cortéz’s

work. Flamenco pulsates through

his veins - he was taught his first

faltering steps at seven by his uncle Christobel. ‘All gypsy families dance at home,’ enthuses Cortéz. ‘Wc dance at birthdays, baptisms, weddings . . . We dance and play music for entertainment. Gypsies have passed their stories and myths from father to son, mother to daughter, through their music and dance. This is what I have tried to do in Gypsy Passion.’

Perhaps the break with classical ballet was entirely natural, then? ‘My first love and my first memories of dancing is flamenco this is my first passion,’ he confirms. ‘It was Christobel that first suggested I learnt classical ballet . . . It has given me my technique, but it is flamenco that is in my heart and soul, it is my heritage. I apply the classical techniques to the training of my company but it is what I have learnt from flamenco the passion and emotion that I perform.’

Not everyone has been so enamoured by

the Cortéz fusion. Many flamenco purists view Cortéz’s popularisation of the genre as unforgivable. ‘Everyone has their own opinion,’ replies the dancer, ever the diplomat. ‘A lot of purists think that everything should be done as it has been for years and always follow set rules. It has already been invented so we can’t deviate.

When an artist brings a new element to a

formal culture, that is how it evolves . . . I

respect the purists’ opinion but I think of myself as an original dancer. 1 am pure Joaquin!’

Being ‘pure Joaquin’ involves a taxing schedule of eight to ten hours’ rehearsal a day with his company. But far from the fruitjuice,

mineral water and raw vegetable diet one might imagine feeds those lean muscles, Joaquin’s eating habits have more in common with Scotland’s cholesterol-high diet. ‘I like to eat hamburgers and chips too much,’ he rcvcals. ‘I eat too many of them when I am away from home.’ Ahh, a secret pie eater at heart, then?

Asked if he has a special message for fellow burger eaters in Bonnie Scotland, he replies: ‘Yes, I am looking forward to coming to Scotland. I have never danced there and it will be beautiful to perform for the Scottish people.’ It will be beautiful for us too, Joaquin.

Joaquin Cortéz is the Michael Flatley of Spanish dancing - only sexier because he doesn't wear a head band.

Gypsy Passion is at the SECC, Glasgow, Fri 18 Apr.

18 Apr—l May 1997 THE LIST13