JOAQUINA WILFORD was not always a flamenco dancer. Born in London to a Spanish mother, she started her professional life as a contemporary ballet dancer with an apprenticeship in New York. But it was during a theatre trip to see the famous flamenco singer from Jerez, Antonio Núñez Montoya, known to the world as El Chocolate, that she had a kind of epiphany.
She said: “El Chocolate is a very famous singer, a gypsy from Jerez, and it was a huge show with lots of dance. It blew my mind.
“My mother was from a gypsy family and I grew up knowing about flamenco. But you know what you are like as a rebellious teenager. I’m from London and I went to dance college — the Laban Centre in London — and did very American training. I wanted to establish myself as who I was.
“But when I saw flamenco I thought, ‘Now I understand this. It makes perfect sense to me. It’s part of something inside of me’.”
The dancer, now known as La Joaquina, went immediately to Spain and started her own dance company, Flamenco Express, which comes to the Kenton Theatre in Henley for a one-night flamenco extravaganza on Friday, March 28.