Amaya's Gypsy Fire

A Video Review By Shira

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Overall Rating: StarStarStarStar (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)

This documentary by Amaya about flamenco discusses its history, shows footage of famous performers, and includes an instructional section. In the historical section, Amaya demonstrates the relationship between Arabic dance (brought to Spain by the Moors and the Moroccan Gypsies) and flamenco.


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The Chart

Recommended Level Intermediate
Formats Available NTSC, PAL
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStar
Total Video Length 59:46 minutes
Performance & Documentary Time 48:39 minutes (81%)
Teaching Time 8:41 minutes (15%)
Amount Of "Other" 2:26 minutes (4%)
List Price $35.00 for NTSC
$42.00 for PAL
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 61 cents for NTSC
73 cents for PAL
Cost For "Other" $1.40 for NTSC
$1.68 for PAL

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This documentary offers a glimpse into the origins of flamenco, which arose from the dances brought to Spain with the Moorish conquest. It opens an elderly Rom (Gypsy) woman speaking of her life growing up and her love of the dance. She punctuates her comments with some dance moves that show the connection she still feels with dancing. It then moves on to views of Granada and shows scenes of the Moorish fortress of Alhambra with Amaya narrating a historical overview of the Moorish presence in Spain.

The next section provides a brief look at the history of the Roma. It discusses how their migration led them from their original home in India, through Afghanistan, Iran, and Northern Africa, crossing from there into Spain, bringing with them the influence of the many cultures they encountered along the way.

The next section, Gypsy Dance, is probably my favorite part of the video. Set in the caves of Sacramonte, it shows performances by assorted members of Roma families. A boy around 10 years old performs with a cane, showing the passion of flamenco already even at his young age. Several additional performers demonstrate their own interpretations of the zambra mora, a dance in the flamenco family closely related to Arabic dance.

The next two sections feature legendary flamenco dance artists, Cruz Luna and Carmen Amaya. Clad in a costume that evokes horseback riding and carrying a riding crop, he performs a 4-minute dance whose footwork captures the rhythmic gait of a galloping horse. In 17 minutes of vintage black and white film from the 1930's and 1940's, Carmen Amaya demonstrates the stunning technique and compelling stage presence that led to her fame.

Next is a 9-minute instructional section in which Amaya teaches five dance moves that can be used to bring a taste of the Gypsy zambra mora into a belly dance performance. This instruction is conducted at an intermediate level.

The video closes with a performance by Amaya in Texas, accompanied by a band called The Gypsies. Her performance is primarily shimmy-oriented, incorporating the flamenco shimmy taught earlier. The energy level starts out low-key, and gradually builds. When one of the band members stands up and begins to dance himself, Amaya takes his seat, picks up his drum, and helps the rest of the band play for him. After a bit of this, she returns to the stage and builds the performance to a climax.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You're interested in learning about the historical ties between flamenco, Gypsy/Rom dance, and Arabic dance.
  • You would enjoy learning a little about the zambra mora, a dance in the flamenco family which preserves the original Moorish (Arabic) flavor.
  • You would enjoy seeing performance segments featuring Cruz Luna and Carmen Amaya (two legendary flamenco artists).
  • You would like to add some Gypsy/Rom flavor steps inspired by the zambra mora to your belly dance style.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You have absolutely no interest in flamenco or Romany dance or in how they relate to Arabic dance.
  • You're only interested in Egyptian and Lebanese dance.
  • You're looking for a video focused on "belly dancing".

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • I've always enjoyed watching flamenco, but never made the time to learn much about it. Amaya offers a glimpse into the history of this dance form that I found to be informative and enjoyably presented.
  • For a long time, I've wanted to see the dance zambra mora, and this video offers the education I was looking for.
  • Through her discussion of the history of the Roma and the Moorish rule of Spain, Amaya demonstrates how the subjects of flamenco, Arabic dance, and Gypsy dance are all related.
  • The production quality is generally quite good. The video uses appealing on-screen images, pleasant background music that is played quietly enough to not compete with the narration yet is just discernable enough to add a pleasant mood. I could always hear what I wanted to hear. Most of the time the camera showed me what I wanted to see.

What I Didn't Like

  • In the opening scenes of Granada and the Alhambra, the camera work seemed to be a little out of focus at times.
  • In Cruz Luna's performance, there were a couple of times when the camera focused on him from the waist up, and I really wished it would pull back to let me see his feet.

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Movements Included

Zambra step, marking step, skirt technique, picking roses, and flamenco shimmy.

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

If you'd like to read my reviews of other videos by Amaya, choose from the list below:

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In Conclusion

Amaya's research into the history of flamenco and its relationship to the Moorish cultural influence in Spain offers an interesting look into how belly dancing, the Roma, and flamenco are all historically related. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in flamenco and zambra mora, fusion of Gypsy dance with belly dance, or a glimpse into the history of the Roma who migrated across North Africa.

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My first exposure to Amaya came in the 1980's when I attended a workshop in San Jose, California that she taught. I very much enjoyed the class, but there was no opportunity to have a conversation with her at the time. More recently, I met her in person once as I was dealing with a flat tire on my car outside a belly dance festival. We exchanged introductions, but it wasn't exactly an ideal time to chat! We have also had some e-mail contact, but not extensive. So, I would describe our relationship as pleasant acquaintances, but not more than that. I purchased my copy of this video from a vendor.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Amaya as follows:

Amaya Productions
P.O. Box 205
Cedar Crest, NM 87008-0205

Phone & Fax: (+1) (505) 281-4492
Mobile: (+1) (505) 480-6221

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