Raquel Peña the Flamenco and Sevillanas Icon
‘Who is following who?’ This was my wife’s idea of a witticism when I first danced with her. You don’t ask the same question of flamenco breath-taking Raquel Peña when Michael Flatley’s Riverdance comes up in the conversation. Raquel was first!
There is something these superstars of dance do have in common; their ability to flood a stage with an explosion of colour, sound, passion and excitement. Raquel Pena’s reputation as a Sevillana and Flamenco tutor, virtuoso, dancer, and choreographer goes so far back it is just this side of dynastic.
Nurtured by the ancient soil of Andalusia Raquel Peña’s father, a movie producer, moved to New York with his wife, Rosa, who was born in Holland of Russian lineage. The stage was set for their second daughter, Raquel, also born in the Netherlands, to continue her passion for dance. Even as an eight-year-old the Maestra of Sevillanas already had long experience of dancing her way into the hearts of audiences.
After seven years of intensive study at New York’s celebrated Metropolitan Opera Ballet School, Raquel majored in many of the world’s dance forms under the direction of the legendary masters of these genres.
Raquel Pena was drawn like a moth to the inflammable flamenco. Under the direction of La Meri, Mariquita Flores; and later Paco Fernandez, Ciro and many others, against a backdrop of performances by passing artistes Vicente Escudero, Jose Greco, Antonio and Rosario, Raquel was soon to have the world at her dancing and staccato-tapping feet. She was one of the few to be mentored by Carmen Amaya.
It was Amaya’s close friendship with Fernando Sirvent (1925-96) that brought the renowned flamenco guitarist to Raquel’s side and soon afterwards to the altar. Raquel was then just seventeen years old and already a professional performer.
International stardom followed her performances with the Ximénez-Vargas Ballet Español and in her principal role as a dancer with the José Molina Spanish Dance Company. A world tour with her own company covering North America, Latin America and Europe brought global acclaim.
Her performances, with her husband and other artistes in the flamenco dance form, brought audiences to their feet at New York’s Carnegie Hall, La Scala de Milan, El Albeñiz de Madrid, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In Spain, where her heart beats, she was the only artiste to present two performances at the prestigious Festival Nacional de Cante de Las Minas en La Union, Murcia, Spain. Raquel’s routine was applauded by three American presidents: J. F Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.
Today, Raquel has her own dance troupe and dances closer to home with her company offering regular performances in Costa Blanca, Alicante. As driven as ever, her goal is to ensure that the flamenco and sevillanas tradition at its highest level is carried forward for future generations. When you see her stars perform you peek into both the past and the future. Ole!
About the Author
Michael Walsh is the author of over 70 published book titles. He has also ghost-written (book edited) over 40 books, novels and biographies for writer clients. He offers professional help for writers: editing of website content, books, novels and marketing content. You write it HE rights it.