Omayra Amaya Flamenco Dance Company | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Omayra Amaya Flamenco Dance Company


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Omayra Amaya comes by her taste for experimentation honestly: her great-aunt was the legendary Gypsy flamenco dancer and movie star Carmen Amaya. A tiny woman with slim hips and wiry arms, Carmen broke the mold, dancing in pants and appropriating the percussive footwork that had been the province of men. She was born in poverty in 1913 in Barcelona; self-taught, she got famous in Madrid, where her debut was reportedly so exciting that spectators threw plates and broke mirrors. Once she moved to the Americas, in 1936, she earned enough onstage and in films to pretty much support her extended family, but Gypsy tradition dictated that her earnings be controlled by a male family member--first her father, then her brother. By the time she died, in 1963, there was no money left. Similar themes--testing the boundaries of tradition, skirting financial ruin--run through the life of her grandniece, now in her mid-30s. Omayra danced flamenco exclusively from age 6 to age 15, often touring with her parents and their company. But she became curious about other forms and enrolled at the Boston Conservatory, where she studied modern dance and ballet. Shortly after graduating, in 1993, she formed her own company--appropriately called Amaya, Flamenco sin Limites (Flamenco Without Limits)--which incorporated jazz music and movements into its performances. A critical success, the troupe folded when it ran out of money. Her current troupe, based in Miami, is performing a program called "Raza: The New Breed," with accompaniment by guitarist Roberto Castellon and singers Curro Cueto and Felix de Lola. Reviewing Amaya and co. after an appearance here in 2000, Chicago dancer Selene Carter wrote, "I was in the presence of greatness. Run don't walk to see any of these performers." HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707. Thursday, December 11, 8 PM. $20.

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