In the very heart of flamenco lives a mysterious being that everyone feels, but no-one can explain: El Duende (the spirit).

The exhibition EL DUENDE DESNUDO invites us to enter the fascinating world of flamenco and discover the deepest and the most revealing side of some of its leading interpreters. The artists lend themselves to a double nude: body and soul. Their skin becomes a canvas that conveys their intimate stories and emotions with an intricate pattern of "tattoos" painted by hand.

EL DUENDE DESNUDO, an exhibition of ten portraits, was the first official event of the XX Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla, at El Teatro Central on the 4th of September 2018. 

María Moreno

María starts slowly. She is like a good bottle of red which needs to rest and breathe for a while before it reveals its true character.

Little by little, she warms up and then there’s no stopping her. She talks about her ups and downs, both professional and personal, about her love of the sea (“I’m a sailor at heart”) and then the most important event of her life, the premature death of her father; clearly, it traumatised her and she still misses him a lot.

And, after all this, she tells me that she is bashful in the extreme. Doesn’t like to talk about herself, avoids getting too close to people and never says “I love you” because she feels embarrassed. But hey, what’s going on here, didn’t you just share your most intimate secrets with me? “Oh, I did, didn’t I...” she replies with a giggle, turning bright red.

I wonder aloud how much a psychotherapist would charge for two hours and we laugh until we cry.



Whenever I have listened to the moving interpretations of Arcángel I imagined a deeply emotional person behind his vibrant voice - a great artist with his fragile side, perhaps given to smoking and drinking in excess.

However, I could not have been more wrong: Arcángel is the opposite of the stereotype of the volatile artist. From the moment we met, and throughout the photo session and the interview, he was impeccably courteous and totally professional.

Arcángel does not believe in magic and feels much more comfortable in the realm of logic and reason. He transmits the image of a consciously measured man who creates his own destiny through hard work and discipline.

Which goes to prove the old saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover or, in this case, you can’t judge a person by his voice.


Esperanza Fernández

Esperanza was the first to accept my invitation to participate in the El Duende Desnudo project. I was pleasantly surprised - she comes from a traditional gipsy family, so taking off her clothes would be considered quite scandalous, an act of rebellion.

But that’s Esperanza for you, a free spirit that simply does what she wants to do, regardless of what people might think or say. Much of the blame for her independence can be attributed to her father (“the love of my life”, she says with a cheesy grin), who has always encouraged her to be true to herself.

We chat about music, racism, her travels around the world and a myriad of other subjects... she is wildly expressive, but it’s not until we talk about her two sons that her face really lights up. I realise that Esperanza may be many things to many people, a marvellous cantaora of course, but, above anything else, she is a mother. A universal mother, mother earth, Venus in flesh and blood.


Dani de Morón

Dani likes to keep things simple. His two favourite activities are watching football with his father and listening to the murmur of his mother’s pot when she cooks a stew.

He fell in love with the guitar at an early age - literally love at first sight - and he is still hopelessly infatuated. He never separates from his guitar, holding on to her while we chat, and he pleads with me to photograph him with her. I’m sorry, but I can’t include any props...

His other great love will always be the legendary maestro Paco de Lucía, his mentor, his idol and his soul-mate. The happiest moments of Dani’s life were playing the guitar with Paco (“It was like playing football with Messi.”), and his saddest was Paco’s passing away in Mexico.

I have an impression that Dani would make an exceptionally good friend: steadfast, loyal and completely guileless.


La Tremendita

Rosario La Tremendita is a heap of contradictions. She radiates tranquility and tenderness, but claims to be possessed by demons (“Tremendous inside!”).

Musically, she is deeply rooted in the flamenco tradition of her native Triana, but she is also at the cutting edge of experimentation. A fierce warrior who wants peace more than anything else. A workaholic, always in studios or touring the world, she would rather be at home cooking... every yin has its yang.

Rosario opened up without inhibition during our interview; we talked about her existential crisis two years ago - a broken relationship, chaos, pain, depression, psychotherapy - and yet, all this time she was smiling and even laughing at her own calamities. She copes by doing what her family has always done, singing happy songs in times of distress.

El Choro

Good shade. El Choro tells me that it’s a gipsy expression, meaning something like “good vibes”. I like it because it personifies El Choro himself - he oozes good shade and positive energy. He is a pure-blood gipsy, proud of his roots and identified with his clan.

In these days dominated by the deafening noise of self-promotion, El Choro is refreshingly humble, attributing his success to the will of God, as if he had nothing to do with it, as if he were not a magnificent dancer.

He cuts an imposing figure, strong as a fighting bull, but he has a deeply sensitive side: he venerates his mother, he loves his dog Trini to death and he abhors social injustice. “It is absolutely deplorable that there are still children dying of hunger,” he says with fire and fury in his eyes.

Half man of God, half rogue... El Choro is a perfect companion to share a beer with. Many beers.


Patricia Guerrero


Patricia is the new face of contemporary flamenco dance, the hottest item on the circuit, but it doesn’t feel right. “Fashion goes out of fashion”, she says with a wry smile.

It’s plain to see that being fashionable doesn’t suit her personality: Patricia is a breath of fresh air, everyone’s perfect girl next door. She says that these days she struggles to find someone to share a drink with, “They all wake up early to go to the gym!”

Yet this carefree attitude is only one side of the coin; on the flipside, there is a determined young woman with a strong sense of direction and a healthy dose of obstinacy. She knows what she wants and goes after it until she gets it. Luck has nothing to do with it, everything is a consequence of the sacrifice she is willing to make.

Ever since she left Granada to live alone in Seville at the age of 18, Patricia has remained true to her credo: eyes on the stars, feet on the ground.

Rubén Olmo

Rubén is one of those people that fills the room with his mere presence. Strong and fragile at the same time, his penetrating look and an incredibly sculpted body demand your full attention. Rubén is a star and he knows it.

Yet his beginnings were anything but glamorous. Growing up in Tres Mil Viviendas, Seville’s poorest and notoriously dangerous neighbourhood, would not have been easy, but Rubén’s ambition has swept all obstacles aside on his journey to the top of his profession.

It is the same ambition that keeps driving him today as he subjects his body to a relentless daily exercise routine that puts most elite athletes to shame. You get the impression that he enjoys punishment...

Intense, passionate and utterly charming, Rubén has got what it takes to succeed in his game: the discipline of a classical dancer and the heart of a flamenco.


Esmeralda Rancapino

Esmeralda, a skimpy little thing, is only 11 years old but, God knows from where, explodes a powerful flamenco voice that defies natural laws.

She arrives at the photo session with a full entourage, befitting of a gipsy princess who descends from an important clan of singers with her grandfather Rancapino at the head.

As soon as her team enters my house the party begins. It’s impossible to conduct an interview in the middle of a flamenco fiesta. Curiously, the party is not fueled by alcohol, but by Coca-Cola Zero!

Timid at first, Esmeralda is warming up now. Little by little, she takes over the photo shoot, until I’m forced to remind her that I am the one who directs. She laughs like a little girl who has just done something naughty.

I hope that one day she will fulfil her dream of becoming a famous cantaora. And why not? She has the voice, the ambition and the family pedigree.

Daniel Casares

Daniel is a slave of his art. A willing one.

A perfectionist who lives in a constant state of frustration, because he is never satisfied with his work. A virtuoso with an impeccable technique, his greatest fear is not to transmit emotion; “If you don’t have emotion, you have nothing.”

Frustration, fear, discipline, sacrifice and suffering... Daniel doesn’t take the easy road. Yet he seems content. He fell hopelessly in love with the guitar at the age of 13, not quite knowing why, and since then his life has been a continuous struggle to master the instrument. Once again, he has chosen the difficult path, opting for both the classical and the flamenco guitar.

“Behind every artist there is fear and darkness” he says, but what I see is a bright light in his eyes... a passionate man who clearly found his vocation.

A happy slave.