No history of flamenco is complete without a comprehensive account of the life and work of this incomparable flamenco diva.
More than just a dancer, Tati is the purest synthesis of flamenco blood, soil and spirit. A major voice and an unquestioned prima flamenca who has inspired a generation, whose art has always been fed by her vast and legendary life.
To compare her with blues giant Bessie Smith is not fanciful. Her life has also been eventful, and she has had to fight hard to assert herself in a hostile culture.
Her reputation within flamenco has grown accordingly. Her appearance at Hackney Empire, with the ghost of Marie Lloyd (2) looking down, reminds us of another great woman of the stage with whom she bears comparison.
Her decision to appear in British regional theatres allows a much wider audience to experience her power at close hand. To hear her say ‘This is Thus’ as only she can, with her dance – if what she does can be confined within that term. After all, this is flamenco. When she first read Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage’ (3) she said “This Mother has to dance!”. She could have been talking about herself, or every mother. And is in the spirit of universality which is flamenco.
Francisca Sadornil Ruiz, ‘La Tati’, was born in Madrid at 104 Toledo Street. She was brought up in the ‘El Rastro’ fleamarket where her parents had a stall. She says that ‘From the beginning she had within her that mysterious heritage of those individuals branded by destiny and driven by an irrevocable vocation.’
At six years of age, she took her first dance steps at the nearby dance academy of La Quica, a dancer from Seville. La Tati would go there to watch and to listen to the lessons and would trade this education for little services she did in the academy since her family couldn’t afford to pay for classes. She never received any formal lessons.
At twelve years of age, she appeared as a soloist for the first time at the Zambra, the historical venue where great figures such as Rosa Duran, Manolo Vargas, Rafael Romero, “El Gallina”, Pericon de Cádiz and Juan Varea used to perform. It was there that she polished her art.
Since that early dawning of her passion for flamenco, La Tati has toured the world several times, both as a premier guest artist and with her own productions, performing in all the great metropolitan houses and even in theatres deep within the Arctic Circle.
Her colleagues on stage have included giants from all branches of music and performance, such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles. She has worked closely with virtually every flamenco artist in the transitional flamenco generation from Cameron de las Islas to Joaquin Cortés and beyond, including Matilde Coral, Cristina Hoyos, Paco de Lucía, Carmen Cortés, Gerardo Núñez, La Tolea, Manolete, Cristobal Reyes, Antonio Canales, Joaquin Grilo, Joaquin Ruiz and Antonio Reyes.
Her vast contribution to the regeneration of flamenco in the Post-Franco era is widely recognized. Her artistic achievement is unquestioned. Her mastery of an audience completely unparalleled.
“La Tati is of the earth, earthy, with a bewitching sense of humour. That artistry which speaks grandly to us across language and culture.”
Clement Crisp. Financial Times.
“Everything that has happened in legitimate flamenco music since the unfathomable reaches of time shine with authenticity in this vortex of a dancer, who, nevertheless, is an amazing original. ‘La Tati’ is offering arte jondo the best praise she can give – she personifies it.”
– Diario De Jerez.
“Madrid has never had such a grand dancer as La Tati. “
– Angel Alvarez caballero. El Pais.
“This tiny little piece of a woman roars around like a caged animal, sways her hips and puts on a show with unequalled arrogance to finish with a majestic pose totally in slow motion and beautifully felt. Both initiated and uninitiated asked for more. ‘La Tati’ understands how to inflame the hearts of Parisians.”
– Ariane Dollfas. France Soir.
“La Tati is a bailaora with feet of gold.. the reference point when speaking of flamenco dance and that almost mystical word of exalted emotion – Duende.”
– Le Nouvel Observateur. Paris
“La Tati, the undeniable ‘popesa’ of flamenco. Her eyes, like embers, quickly sparkle to the sensuous rhythms of the flamenco guitars. Can the boards withstand two and a half hours of her fiery heels every night?”
Martin Rabaude, Elle, Paris
“La Tati reminds us that flamenco for women is not necessarily pretty. She gives the space a savage, earthy dressing down, hips jutting, splayed legs shuffling across the stage. The long fantail of her dress becomes a frothy animal.”
Director, choreographer & principal dancer : La Tati.
‘La Casa de Bernarda Alba’
In October of 2000, the company presented the debut performance of her production of “La Casa de Bernarda Alba” from the work by Federico Garcia Lorca at the Auditorium of Las Rozas during the Festival de Otoño in Madrid. It subsequently toured a network of theatres in Madrid and across Spain.
In the library of the theatre in Salamanca, where she was producing The House of Bernada Alba, La Tati came across the work of Bertold Brecht. She was particularly impressed by Mother Courage. On finishing it she exclaimed: “this Mother needs to dance” and then spent a further year reading and researching her theme in the works of Gorky, Lorca, Miguel Hernandez and others until the vision of her ‘Madre’ emerged.
‘Madre’ uses the purest flamenco style: Tonás, Siguiriyas, Soleares, Taranto, Bamberas, Bulerias and Tango, but uses instruments not usually associated with flamenco: violin, percussion and recorded music.
Its cultural synthesis derives another layer of resonance from the historic connections between Spanish ‘Flamencos’ and the ‘Flemish’ Low Countries. One theory has it that the gypsies who fought for Spain in the Dutch War of the C16 were dubbed ‘flamencos’ only after their return from the ‘Flemish’ lands, and that this is the origin of the term.
The Flamenco Theatre of La Tati changed Mother Courage into a true Flamenco opera, and by doing so, breached a considerable cultural barrier between the worlds of the Gitano, with their ancient roots in India, and that of rational, secular, industrialised Northern Europe.
By recognising the ‘duende’ displayed by Brecht’s creation, ‘Madre’ highlights the universality of the human spirit, and how little actually divides us – no matter what culture we are born into. The world is not divided into the ‘hot-blooded’ South and the ‘cold-blooded’ North.
‘La Tati’ saw that flamenco’s broad arms could easily embrace Brecht’s intensely political Modernism, and give it a further spiritual level.
It is hoped that this philosophical fusion will further assert the relevance of flamenco as a modern art form.
The work received its premiere in the heartland of Northern European ethnic music, theatre and dance at the World Music Theatre Festival on 1st April 2004 in Utrecht. The production enjoyed great public success and critical acclaim, and toured throughout Holland anf Belgium.
It is hoped to tour the production in Britain in the near future.
PERFORMANCE, CHOREOGRAPHY AND DIRECTION
After her years at El Zambra, La Tati rapidly became much sought after and moved on to the ‘Torres Bermejas’, where she shared the stage with Niño Ricardo, Fernanda y Bernarda de Utrera, La Paquera de Jerez, el gran Faíco, Mario Maya, El Güito and Trini España for three years.
After being invited on the European tour of ‘Festival Flamenco Gitano’, she continued with the company for three years, working with some of the greatest jazz and flamenco artists – including Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Paco de Lucía, Paco Cepero, José Menese, Juan Peña, “El Lebrijano”, El Güito and La Singla.
She returned to Madrid to work in the most prestigious flamenco venues with some of the great legends of flamenco such as: Terremoto de Jerez, Manuel Soto Sordera, El Sernita, Manolo Caracol, Camarón de Ia Isla, Matilde Coral, Cristina Hoyos and many others.
She danced alternatively in Torres Bermejas, El Duende de Gitanillo de Triana (run by the mythical Pastora lmperio ) and Los Canasteros (run by Manolo Caracol who used to say she was his favorite “bulerías” dancer).
Her first world tour was as guest artist for Luisillo’s Teatro de Ia Danza in tour of South Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
She was invited to La Trocha in Seville for a month and stayed five years, performing in all the great Andalusian festivals:
the Parpuja of Chidana, the Potaje of Utrera, La Fiesta de Ia Bulería in Jerez de Ia Frontera, the Cata in Montilla, Córdoba, the Festival of Cádiz, Homage to La Perla in El Parque, Cádiz, Las Colombinas in Huelva, The Festival of the Gypsies at the Lope de Vega Theatre, Pasando el Puente * Festival of Triana € Fiesta de Ia Bulería in Algeciras.
1980s. ‘Cumbre’ > ‘Apologia’.
During her time in Seville, Tati was asked by ‘Cumbre Flamenca’ to perform at the Mellila and Ceuta festivals.
She performed for two seasons (1984 and 1985) at the Alcala Palace Theatre in Madrid.
Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the legendary ‘Cumbre del Baile’ was created. The company included Carmen Cortés, Gerardo Nuñez, La Tolea, Manolete, Cristobal Reyes, La Tati and Antonio Canales. They began their world tour at the Festival Latino in New York’s Central Park, and went on to perform in a total of 24 countries in the U.S, North Africa, Latin America and Europe – where they appeared at the Brighton Festival, Kopiu Festival in Finland and the Paris Theatre.
* International Women’s Day 1987 , University of San Juan Evangelista in Madrid. La Tati created her own company and introduced unorthodox instruments to flamenco for the first time.
* Performances at the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid.
* Two consecutive seasons of ‘Ama Flamenco’ at the Veranos de Ia Villa Festival in Madrid
* La Tati’s production of ‘Apología Flamenca’ premiered a two week run at the Sodra Theatre in Stockholm in 1988, then was a great success in Paris where they shared the stage with the legendary Camarón de Ia Isla and Cirque d’Hiver.
* Festival del Corpus in Granada as well as in Amsterdam and Arnhem, Holland with her homage to Juan Antonio, ‘Madrid Ama Flamenco’.
* 1989 Bienal de Arte Flamenco in Seville. In October, she participated in the Festival de Otoño in Madrid.
* Third Paris Season.
* International Festival of the Arts at the Theatre des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Belgium.
* XIVth Florence Dance Festival. – Guest artist.
* ‘Apologia Flamenca’, Nuevo Apolo Theatre, Madrid with Joaquin Cortes.
* ‘Madrid Capital del Flamenco.’ May 2nd festivities in Madrid.
* In October ‘Chambao Flamenco’ toured Mexico. La Tati also participated in the XVIII Festival Cervantino de Guanajuato with ‘Apologia Flamenca’ which received the award for best festival show.
* ’Apologia Flamenca’ toured Scandinavia including performances at Stockholm’s Dans Ens Hus, Norway’s Gavie Theatre and in Finland. While in Finland hers was the first flamenco company to reach Humea in Laponia. The cast included Joaquin Grilo, Joaquin Ruiz and Antonio Reyes.
* Rivoli Theatre in Oporto, Portugal.
* The Vredembarga and Vrjthof theatres in The Netherlands.
* The Grand Casino in Nice, together with the great singer Ute Lemper.
1994 and 1995
1994 saw the premiere of her third show with her own company.
* ‘Herijia de Ia Llama’ opened at the Teatro de Madrid. And went on to tour The Pireo International Festival, Salonica Dance Festival, The Maastrich Festival and other venues.
Instrumentally, the show made use of keyboards, bass, sax, flute and percussion combined with traditional flamenco instrumentation and vocals.
1995 – 6
* ‘Recital Flamenco’ for the Veranos de Ia Villa festival (which was premiered at the Conde Duque Arts Centre in July).
* September – Festival de Musica y Danza, Santander.
* Performed at the International Guitar Festival in Jerusalem for two consecutive years as choreographer and director.
* Producer and director of ‘Madrí-Jeré’ for Encuentro Flamenco in the Villa De Madrid Arts Centre. Distinguished artists such as El Capullo de Jerez, Fernando de Ia Morena, Juan Moneo “el Torta”, Mijita, Juan and Manuel Parrilla, Periquin Jero, Diego Amaya, Andres Heredia and David Amaya were among the guests.
* Toured Canada, Israel, Mexico and Germany.
* “Campanas Flamencas” as soloist and choreographic coordinator.
* Following that show’s successful season in London, appointed Director Advisor by Francisco Sanchez, Artistic Director of the TVE series “Algo Mas Que Flamenco” and commissioned to record two programs.
* Took part in several other flamenco events and taught classes in Germany, Italy and the United States.
* Dancer and choreographer – ‘Campanas Flamencas’ in its unforgettable five week run at the Sadlers’ Wells Theatre in London.
* That same year saw her performing at the Festival of the Palau de Ia Musica in Valencia.
* Repeat tour of ‘Campanas Flamencas’ in Sydney and Jerez and nationwide Spanish Tour.
* Premier of “Relumbre” in New York.
* “Madrí-Jeré’ in Madrid as well as in other Spanish and American cities.
* Flamenco Festival organized by Caja Madrid, a programme dedicated to the great flamenco artists of Madrid.
* April – Festival Internacional de Ia Danza at the Villamarta Theatre in Jerez de Ia Frontera.
* May. ‘Madrí-Jeré’, Gran Teatro in Caceres.
* July – ‘Relumbre Rojo sobre Morado’ at the World Financial Centre in Rockefeller Park, New York.
* September, Madrí-Jeré presented during the Spanish Dance season at the Villa de Madrid Arts Centre.
* “Concierto Flamenco” that opened the Spanish Cultural Program at Expo Hanover 2000. Dancer and Director Advisor.
* ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ premiered in Madrid and continued with a tour of the network of theatres of the Comunidad of Madrid until November 25.
La Tati Productions:
* European tour of ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’. (see Productions above)
* ‘Relumbre Rojo sobre Morado’ at the Queen Elizabeth Halls in London to outstanding acclaim.
‘Madre’ – La Tati’s conception of Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage’.
(see Productions above)
Her irrepressible personality has also placed her in demand for a range of acting roles on television.
In addition to performing Tati has given master classes in South Africa, at the Spanish Dance Society in London, in Tel Aviv and in Washington, D.C.
La Tati coordinates her dancing with her work as a choreographer and teacher. Besides directing and choreographing all her own shows, she has been a guest artist with the Ballet Nacional de España (during the tenure of Antonio Ruiz Soler, the Great Antonio), the Ballet Hispanico of New York, the Escuela del Teatro Bellas Artes of Mexico D.F., the University of Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. as well as in Toronto, Canada, Italy and France.
La Tati has delivered flamenco tuition to professional dancers all over the world, and in the Amor de Dios Centre where she has spent the last twenty five years creating her own school, she provides an invaluable source of continuity and heritage for the new dancers of today.
She will be giving a one-day workshop for beginners and intermediate students in London on October 16th. venue TBA.
For More Information visit:
La Tati Interviews and Articles.
“La Tati – A Very Special Bernarda Alba” – ‘Flamenco World’.
‘Flamenco Without Borders’ – ‘Es Flamenco’
‘The Self Portrait of La Tati’ – deflamenco.com
“Flamenco Master La Tati”
“esto es así” – i.e. “This is Thus”
“Madre” – Flamenco Nederlands
he Bessie Smith (1) of Flamenco comes to Britain’s regional theatres with Flamenco Express.
Trinity Arts Centre, Church Rd, Tunbridge Wells. Kent. 14th October
Hackney Empire, 291 Mare St, London E8 1EJ. 15th October