Giorgio and the gypsy

The dance world has produced few modern-day stars - household figures that the average passer-by could name.

But it is a success carved out of hard work, commitment and vision. A ballet student from the age of 12, Corts went on to join Spanish National Ballet before working with dance companies across the world. All of which made him a better choreographer and performer, but did little to raise his profile. Ultimately, Corts’s gypsy heritage became his passport to fame, when he reinvented a dance form steeped in history. Inevitably he met with disapproval. "Twelve years ago, when I first came onto the scene as a young dancer full of brand new ideas, it was natural that the purists and critics were going to have a reaction against it," says Corts of his hybrid flamenco. "But the great thing is that slowly but surely these people are being won round and are beginning to give recognition."

Those "brand new ideas" have led to a string of shows featuring Corts’s blend of dance, live music and song, always with one eye on tradition. True flamenco may be born out of poverty, drenched in passion and filled with angst, but most of us equate it with pretty Spanish dolls and smiling senoritas. For Corts, the challenge is taking the traditional and making it palatable - celebrating his roots without overwhelming the audience. "I like taking the culture outside and making it more universal," he says. "To give it an expression and make it known in other parts of the world - it’s not something that needs to be kept to itself."

From the Royal Albert Hall to Rio’s Ipanema Beach, Corts has taken his brand of flamenco around the globe, winning adulation from Jennifer Lopez, Sting and Eric Clapton among others. His latest venture, Joaqun Corts Live, has been choreographed and co-composed by Corts himself, and features everything from emotive jondo flamenco to jazz, Cuban and classical. Twelve musicians, six singers and one mesmerising dancer, all beautifully clad by fashion guru and Corts fan, Giorgio Armani. "I share a minimalist philosophy with him, the feeling that less is more," says Corts of the designer. "And Armani brings an elegance - because flamenco can be quite savage and raw otherwise - and it’s that lovely combination of the grace of Armani with the passion of flamenco."

Young, sexy and hugely talented, on the surface Corts seems like a prime candidate for arrogant aloofness. Instead he is gracious and charming, laughing encouragingly at my pigeon Spanish (his English is little better, relying heavily on translators) and speaking with genuine fervour about his artform. And having played to Hollywood stars at the Oscars and rock’s biggest names at the Grammys, how will ordinary folk in Edinburgh and Glasgow compare? "Audiences are the same to me," he insists. "It’s very much a case of interacting with the people, and that really isn’t different in Scotland or any other part of the world. The aim is to spread the flamenco movement across as wide an audience as possible - that’s central to my performance and it means I treat everyone in exactly the same way."

Joaqun Corts Live is at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh tonight and the Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow tomorrow.

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