Though born in Italy and raised in America, José Greco became one of the best-known exponents of Spanish dance in America. (Photograph from the Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.)
José Greco (1919-2000) brought a mass audience to Spanish dance through his sensitivity to the attractions of spectacle and a virtuosic technique. Italian by birth, he immigrated with his family when he was nine, took dance lessons with Helen Veola, and was educated at New York's Leonardo da Vinci High School of Art. Greco made his debut in 1935 at the New York Hippodrome in Carmen and La Traviata. He partnered La Argentinita in 1942 and subsequently danced with her sister Pilar López. Five years later he founded Ballet y Bailes de España de José Greco and built a company that could pack Lewisohn Stadium with 10,000 viewers. Sponsored by Lee Shubert, Greco's ensemble completed a 1951 U.S. tour with the Flamenco artist La Quica that solidified his reputation. His films between 1948 and 1968 include Manolete, Sombrero, Around the World in Eighty Days, Holiday for Lovers, Ship of Fools, and The Proud and the Damned. Greco maintained two schools: New York's José Greco Foundation for Hispanic Dance and La Campaña-Centro de Arte Español in Marbella, Spain.
José Greco performing a Spanish dance on ABC-TV's The Voice of Firestone in 1959, displaying the intensely dramatic and flamboyant style that enabled him to popularize Spanish dance in America.