Mario Maya Fajardo (1937-2008) was born in Cordoba, but moved to Granada as a child and learned Flamenco from his mother, joining her to dance to tourists in the Sacromonte caves. An English painter, Josette Joans, won a cash prize for an oil painting she had made of the young dancer, and sent part of the money to him to help him pursue his career. Using this gift he moved to Madrid at the age of 13 to study and work in the Tablaos and it was there that he was discovered by the dancer Pilar López who invited him to join her company. He toured the world for the next couple of years before returning to Spain and partnering artistically with the bailaoras La Chunga, María Baena and Carmen Mora, who he would eventually marry.
In 1965 he moved to New York and signed a contract with Columbia Artist Management, allowing him to present a number of recitals over the next two years. During this time he also studied modern dance at the Alwin Nikolais and Alvin Ailey schools - a training that he would use to create a vibrant new Flamenco style. On his return to Spain he formed a trio with Carmen Mora and El Güito and they achieved great success touring the festival circuit and later worldwide. In 1982 he starred in the lead role of Tony Gatlif's
Canta Gitano, a short musical film about the annihilation of Gypsies by the Nazis during the second world war. His most famous screen role however was his now iconic Martinete from Saura's 1995 film
In 1983 he founded the Centro Mario Maya in Seville with the aim of imparting his knowledge onto the next generation of dancers, and also taught at his cousin Manolete's Granada Flamenco academy. His style is a reference point for the new generation of Flamenco artists and his ability to combine Flamenco tradition with pure artistry is a legacy that will last for generations