Interview by Stella Adelman
By Noelle Durant
La Tania has been recognized worldwide as a dancer, choreographer and master teacher. La Tania was born in Arles, France. At a very young age she moved to Spain where she spent her childhood traveling through the flamenco world of Southern Spain; from the caves of Sacromonte, Granada to the gypsy enclave of Moron de la Frontera, and on to Sevilla. La Tania is currently based in Oakland, CA where she has founded La Tania Baile Flamenco Company and School. She is very active in the community imparting her knowledge and creating many events to enrich the Bay Area’s cultural landscape. Read More…
La Tania recently held a weekend of sold-out student performances at Dance Mission this past June. We sat down to chat with her during her tech rehearsal.
Dance Mission: The matriarchs in your family have deeply influenced your life passion for Flamenco.
La Tania: Yes, I was born in France in Arles. When I was two years old [my family] moved to Southern Spain, to Moron de la Frontera, a rural town near Sevilla. My grandmother was really into flamenco and was very interested in the gypsy community. She bought a finca, a ranch house, and that’s where we lived. We even had horses.
Flamenco was happening all the time. My mother took up flamenco. She became a professional dancer in Sevilla and performed in many places around there.
I lived all my very young years in Andalucia. But, we also traveled a lot. We went to Morocco, Africa, to Ireland because my grandmother enjoyed traveling. It was inspirational for her painting—my grandmother was a painter.
She was born in St. Louis, Missouri and my mother born in Monterey, California. My grandmother moved to Europe in her 50s and took her four teenage children with her. First she went to France. She was interested in the whole beatnik and bohemian life that was happening in Paris and all the artists. That’s when her interests began for Spain.
DM: How do you feel this upbringing has influenced you as an artist?
LT: I’ve never felt like I belonged to one place and I feel that I can live anywhere. I’ve always felt like I’m an artist of the world. I don’t really understand concept of racism. I lived in Africa and in Morocco as a child; I had really good friends growing up. Living in all types of communities was natural.
You know when you come into relationships with people who have a strong cultural attachment, who have always lived in the same town and had the same friends… I didn’t really experience that. So when I meet people who’ve experienced that it’s a little bit foreign, to me. In some ways you can feel like outsider, but it’s fascinating. I didn’t know what it was like to have toys. We were always traveling, so there was no attachment to things.
DM: Why do you think women are so attracted to Flamenco?
LT: For women it is attractive because it embraces masculine and feminine. It’s got a very feminine side, from the costume and the beautiful movements with the hands. It’s got a strong masculine side, with the footwork and expression. Flamenco is a type of dance where you are supposed to show your emotions. That is the way of the arts. You tap into your emotions.
DM: Culturally traditional dances are often critiqued as consistently having to face the challenges of creating work that is new and fresh. What is your experience in this with Flamenco?
LT: I think that one of the problems in our culture is that we look too much for what’s new, cutting edge, fresh. To me, art is an expression, especially dance. It’s an expression that happens in the moment. It’s fresh every moment we do it. It’s fresh even if you’re doing the same choreography because the emotion you put in is fresh when each time (you dance) you’re expressing something different. Your intuition is going to be different. So I don’t quite buy the whole idea that you always have to be pushing for what’s “cutting edge.” It’s about what you feel too! Sometimes you feel like doing something new; it has to really be truthful. If I want to do something different, I have to also think that I’m doing Flamenco. I really want to keep representing flamenco and how can I do that and keep it pure.
I think the challenge for me, and it’s a good challenge, is how can I use the influence that I can get here in the Bay Area, from modern choreographers, from ballet, and apply it to flamenco without using what flamenco is. Not turning flamenco into modern dance but using some of the concepts.
La Tania’s upcoming projects include working with Hector Armienta of Opera Cultura, who is composing piece on piano, and a zapateado in September. She is also performing in Zellerbach’s Free for All, a Cal Performances produced, all day event – open to the public.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Thanks to Christine Joy Ferrer/Eyes Opened Media, Dance Mission Blog Editor.