In his essay "The Avant-Garde in
Spain and Spanish America, " Stephen Hart situates the avant-garde
in Spanish poetry as beginning with the arrival in Madrid (1918)
of the influential Chilean poet, Vicente Huidobro. The avant-garde
poetry is characterized as disrupting linearity, and playing
with simultaneity, disjunction, and indeterminacy. This was an
ideological shift from the idealization of ancient civilizations
so celebrated by modernismo, a period of literary preoccupation
with "the fantastic, the invisible world of mystery, and
the irrational" (Litvak, 13) (1).
Are the modernistas not considered avant-garde, in the
sense, according to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, of an intelligentsia
that develops new or experimental concepts in the arts? As a
dance scholar, I will not attempt to grapple with this question
in regard to poetry, except to assert that it is possible to
revisit the past and bring new insights to the present. The past,
reinvented from the perspective of the present, may be a vantage
point from which to critique the human condition. Some would
argue that the modernistas glorified the past as an escape,
and Rubén Darío, the Nicaraguan catalyst for Spanish
modernismo, suggested as much in his preface to Prosas
In my poetry, you'll find princesses,
kings, imperial things, visions of faraway lands or invented
ones. What would you expect? I loathe the times and the age into
which I had the misfortune to be born (2).
Spanish modernismo could be interpreted
as a reaction to the malaise after the defeat of Spain in 1898,
and the loss of Cuba and the Philippines, the last vestiges of
the Spanish Empire. Indulging in an imagined, glorious past may
have been curative for the wounded national psyche. Coincidentally,
Darío, who is credited by Paz as introducing modernismo
in Spain, visited Madrid in 1898. The generación del
'98 encompasses a confluence of several currents.
The period known as modernismo (1880-1913) included poets,
writers, dramatists, artists and intellectuals, such as: Rubén
Darío, Jacinto Benavente, Ramón Valle-Inclan, Julio
Romero de Torres, Martinez Ruiz, Silverio Lanza, Ignacio Zuloago,
Anselmo Miguel Nieto, Rafael de Penagos, Emilio Carrere, Santos
Chocano, Enrique de Mesa, Ricardo Marín, Antonio Hoyos
y Vinent, José (Pepe) Zamora, Pío Baroja, and his
brother Ricardo Baroja. As in other artistic movements, some
names have stood the test of time, and others have faded into
obscurity. They were avid patrons of the cafes, particularly,
the Café Levante (1904-1916). Likewise, they frequented
the popular music halls, which in Madrid featured dancers, such
as, Pastora Imperio, La Argentina, las Esmeraldas, la Bella Belén,
la Monterde, Anita Delgado, and Mata Hari.
Ricardo Baroja recounts an amusing anecdote (1906) in which Valle-Inclán
volunteered to ghost write the love letters sent by Anita Delgado
to the Maharajá de Kapurtala. Valle-Inclán assumed
more than a little credit among his friends for the subsequent
marriage of the lower class Andalusian dancer to the wealthy
maharaja (3). Amor y Vázquez cites several dancers, who
inspired Spanish and Latin American poets, within the modernismo
period: Cléo de Mérode, Loïe Fuller, Ruth
St. Denis, Odette Valéry, La Belle Otero, Pastora Imperio,
Isadora Duncan, Anna Pavlova, La Argentina, and La Chelito. However,
none of these dancers became as symbiotically related to the
modernismo era as Tórtola Valencia, who appeared
on the scene toward the end, rather than the beginning, of its
Tórtola Valencia (1882-1955) was one of the most famous
solo women dancers in Europe between 1908-1930 (4). It is curious
that Valencia's contribution to the early modern dance is not
documented in the English language history of dance, but enormous
press coverage during her performing career attests to her significance
at the time. During and after World War I, Tórtola Valencia
confined her tours to the Spanish speaking world (Spain, South
and Central America, Mexico, Cuba), except for a very short season
in New York in 1917. This may partially account for her absence
in the annals of English language dance history.
Valencia is not easy to categorize in terms of the modern dance
idiom. Possessing an intuitive personal style,
formidable personal charisma, and a propensity for study and
research into her themes, Valencia is similar to other early
modern dancers, sometimes referred to as the 'forerunners of
modern dance.' The intuitive approach did not evolve into a codified
dance language, which could be transmitted to future generations,
although Loïe Fuller, Isadora Duncan, and Ruth St. Denis
all established schools. Key to the process for the early modern
dancers (I prefer this term to 'forerunners') was personal inspiration,
and this cannot readily be formalized into dance pedagogy. Martha
Graham and Doris Humphrey, the next American generation after
Ruth St. Denis, established well- defined principles of dance
language and techniques for transmission of their styles to other
dancers. Mary Wigman, Rudolf Laban's pupil, did not codify a
dance technique as such, but the methods they developed together
had a code and grammar of movement principles that produced many
followers in what became known as, Ausdruckstanz, the
German Modern Dance.
Valencia did not acknowledge any professional dance training.
She espoused the 'natural dance', discovering and inventing her
movement from personal sources, rather than the mastery of traditional
dance forms. The music she selected for her dances was that of
the classical composers, for example, Grieg, Delibes, Chopin,
Tchkaikowsky, Granados, Saint-Saëns, Rubinstein, Schubert,
and Strauss. Known for prodigiously researching and documenting
ancient cultures in libraries and museums, Valencia also made
field trips during her travels to observe and study the dances
of the local or indigenous people. Other early modern dancers
also demonstrated these characteristics in varying degrees, but
Tórtola Valencia was acknowledged as unique in the Spanish
speaking world, and was considered by many Spanish language critics
as comparable in her genre, if not superior, to Isadora Duncan
and Anna Pavlova.
In 1911, Valencia wrote this statement in her personal journal
defining the natural dance:
Natural dancing is the offspring of
inspiration which defies rules and convention. [It is] a series
of beautiful, poetic and rhythmic movements that are expressed
spontaneously by one who conceives the inspiration from melodious
This statement echoes the dance philosophies
of both Isadora Duncan and Maud Allan. The rules and convention
referred to imply those of the classical ballet, which dominated
Western theatre dance for the preceding four centuries. The early
modern dancers eschewed the codified technique and spectacle
of the classical ballet for intuitive movement invention, and/or
gestures and poses researched and inspired from the artifacts
of ancient and exotic cultures. American dancers Martha Graham
and Doris Humphrey rejected the appropriation of remote civilizations
in the late 1920's and early 1930's. However, in the beginning
of the 20th century, the primitive and exotic were novel, and
offered a liberated dance practice for bourgeois women, who were
still trussed up in corsets.
Valencia's repertory was more eclectic than that of her peers.
She was especially renowned for her Oriental dances, for example,
Danza árabe (Tchaikowsky), Danza del incienso
(Buccalossi), La serpiente (Delibes), La bayadera
(Delibes), and Danza de Anitra (Grieg). Among her most
acclaimed classic dances were Marcha fúnebre (Chopin),
Muerte de Aase (Grieg), and La bacanal (Rubinstein).
The Spanish dances were not authentic folk styles as practiced
by her rival La Argentina (Antonia Mercé), but intepretive,
such as, La gitana de los pies desnudos (Saint-Saëns),
and La maja (Aroca/Albéniz).
Differing versions of Tórtola Valencia's background were
given to the press throughout her career, but it seems most likely
that she immigrated to London as a child and was raised and well
educated by a wealthy English antique collector and his family.
A verification of Tórtola Valencia's early background
was not discovered during her lifetime, and has not emerged since
her death. Tórtola Valencia's place of birth is part of
the mystery of her legend, and it has never been satisfactorily
resolved. All descriptions of Valencia characterize her as being
very intelligent, charming, well read, and a cosmopolitan woman
of the world. Her responses in press interviews indicate that
she was wildly imaginative at inventing personal anecdotes, and
had a wry sense of humor.
Following her professional debut, as a Spanish dancer in London
(1908) at the Gaiety Theatre in George Edwardes' production of
Havana, Valencia appeared as a solo dancer in prestigious
European music hall venues. These included the Ronacher Theater
(Vienna), the Wintergarten (Berlin), and the Folies Bergère
(Paris), the Palace Theatre (London), the Circus Variété
(Copenhagen), and the Apollo Theater (Nüremberg). She was
variously billed as a Spanish dancer and a Moorish dancer, and
she was well received by the European critics, even though she
was not the first dancer in her genre. In Valencia's Spanish
dances, Tortajada, La Belle Otero, and Carmencita were her predecessors,
and in the Oriental dances, Ruth St. Denis, Mata Hari, and Maud
Allan were well known before Tórtola Valencia's professional
debut. Comparisons were inevitable, and an unsigned critic in
the Morning Post (London: 28 Dec.1908) stated that Valencia "does
not make so much use of her hands and arms as some of her predecessors,
but in suppleness of limb and grace of motion she equals any
of them." The reviews of her artistry were brief, as she
was at best a featured performer in a roster of other music hall
acts, but press coverage of her off-stage life made her a celebrity.
For example, it was reported in the Weekly Budget (London:
26 Feb., 1910):
One of the most beautiful dancers ever
seen in Paris is Tórtola Valencia, a Spanish lady from
Malaga. [. . . ] Her beauty is of the typical rich, dark, Spanish
style, and her eyes are wonderful. She speaks French with an
enchanting accent. She is a great friend of Don Jaime de Bourbon,
the Carlist Pretender to the Spanish throne. [ . . . ] She has
a coat of Russian crown sable that reaches to the ground, and
is said to be worth £ 12,000. When she appears in the street
in it [. . . ] a small crowd follows her, for nowhere in the
world are furs appreciated as in Paris.
Large photographs of Tórtola
Valencia were published in the newspapers when dance was a featured
topic, or sometimes, for no apparent reason at all. She was very
adept at keeping her name before the public with announcements
of the attempted suicides of her rejected lovers, and all manner
of scandalous behavior expected from a woman of the theatre,
whose lifestyle was outside the norm of Edwardian female bourgeois
standards. Her notoriety in this regard was a large part of the
legendary fame that preceded her Madrid debut.
Indeed, it was a photograph (La Noche, Madrid: 29 Nov.
1911) of Tórtola Valencia attired in a bathing costume
frolicking at the beach resort in Ostend that first attracted
the attention of Federico García Sanchiz. He was a writer,
and would become Valencia's champion in her quest for recognition
as a serious concert artist (6). She debuted in Madrid at the
Teatro Romea in early Dec.1911. Initially, the Madrid music hall
audience was not receptive to Tórtola Valencia's form
of interpretative dance. The music hall theatres in Spain were
not as cosmopolitan as their counterparts in England, France,
and Germany. The upper class Madrileños were not
usual patrons of the vulgar local music hall venues. Tórtola
Valencia's Danza del incienso was too esoteric and somber
compared to the cabaret style flamenco dance familiar to the
music hall crowd.
Valencia's bare legs and costuming of filmy transparent material
were daring and provocative for an audience accustomed to Spanish
dancers attired in flounced dresses and shoes. Catcalls and rude,
obscene remarks from the audience barraged Valencia during the
performance of her dances for the first few days of her engagement.
However, the intellectuals, poets, writers, and artists immediately
appreciated her artistry. Federico García Sanchiz, Jacinto
Benavente, Pompeyo Gener, Hermen Anglada Camarasa, Eduardo Chicharro,
and Ricardo Baroja were among the literati and artists who shouted
down the protests of the philistines at the Teatro Romea. Chicharro
immediately arranged to paint Valencia's portrait, and other
Spanish artists followed suit, for example, Anselmo Miguel Nieto,
Ignacio Zuloaga, Valentín Zubiaurre, Beltrán Massés
and Rafael de Penagos.
The literati, including Luis Bello, Jacinto Benavente, Tomás
Borrás, and Federico García Sanchiz wrote laudatory
essays about her artistry in the daily press. Kurro Kastañares
in España Libre (Madrid: 6 Dec.19ll) took a decidedly
elitist tone: "The public of the Romea does not possess
sufficient education to comprehend the art of the beautiful Spaniard."
This sentiment was to be repeated many times during Tórtola
Valencia's tours throughout Spain and Latin America, where she
attracted the artists, writers, intelligentsia, and the cultivated
social classes of the community.
At the time of Valencia's debut in Madrid, she stated Seville
as her birthplace, claiming that her mother was an Andalusian
gypsy, and her father, a Spanish grandee. The self-invention
of a colorful, romantic origin was commonplace among theatrical
women of the period. Most Spaniards accepted Tórtola Valencia's
claim of Spanish origin, because of her physical appearance.
However, her foreign manner and strong accent in the Spanish
language raised doubts, and interviewers never ceased to ask
questions about the mystery of her birth. Tómas Borrás,
in España Nueva (Madrid: 14 Dec.19ll), observed:
Tórtola has completely lost her
Spanish personality in order to assimilate with the English,
but the treasure of her eyes remains; black as a sloe, profound
and amazing pupils, divine eyes of Andalusia.
Valencia's artist and literati supporters
organized a special performance for her at the same Teatro
Romea,(15 Dec. 1911), but this time she was sponsored
by the Academy of Fine Arts, the Circle of Fine Arts, the Ateneo
of Madrid, and the Association of Writers and Artists. Her dances
were seen in a dignified atmosphere with a string quartet playing
classical selections between the dance numbers, and three 'artistic'
films were interspersed in the program, replacing the vulgar
cabaret comic and dance acts usually seen at the Romea. Valencia
performed Danza (Chopin), Danza del incienso (Bucalossi)
and Danza árabe (Tchkaikowsky). The intellectual,
artistic, and social elite of Madrid attended this special event,
and the evening was a triumph for Tórtola Valencia.
Tórtola Valencia was acclaimed in Germany, France, and
England, but it was in Madrid among the Spanish modernistas
that she created an absolute sensation. Spanish literary modernismo
was a delayed form of Romanticism, embracing many elements
of French Symbolism, such as, swans, peacocks, satyrs, nymphs,
opulent jewels and exotic lands (Paz, 105). Orientalism may have
been the vogue in Paris, London, and Berlin, but it was well
trodden as an intellectual and artistic preoccupation before
1911, and its external manifestations had already filtered down
into the mass popular culture.
Edward Said's thesis that the Oriental representations by Europeans
are merely a reflection of the subordination of the colonized
by European colonizers does not address the phenomenon of Orientalism
in Spain. Spain, whose history of imperialism is indubitable,
was not the colonizer of the Orient, but the colonized for almost
nine centuries by the Moors from Northern Africa until 1492.
Both Kushigian and Litvak argue that Spanish literature revered
the Orient, and did not demarcate the West and the East as the
"civilized" and the "barbarous", as occurred
in some other European countries.
The modernista poets and writers valorized a return to
the roots of Oriental civilizations to recover knowledge based
in the senses. The recuperation of the senses included opulence,
lasciviousness, and symbols of luxury. These decadent themes
were a prophetic metaphor for an impending apocalypse and a reaction
against the perceived sterility and loss of spirituality that
resulted from nineteenth century scientific rationalism and positivism
Valencia's dance interpretations incarnated the inextricably
bound erotic and sacred themes of the modernistas, as
is evident in Ramón Valle Inclán's poem:
Tiene al andar la gracia del felino,
Es toda llena de profundos ecos,
Anuncian sus corales y sus flecos
Un ensueño oriental de lo divino.
Los ojos negros, calidos, astutos
Triste de ciencia antigua la sonrisa,
Y la falda de flores una brisa
De índicos y sagrados institutos
Cortó su mano en un jardin de Oriente
La manzana del árbol prohibido,
Y enroscada a sus senos la serpiente
Decora la lujuria de un sentido
Sagrado. En la tiniebla transparente
De tus ojos, la luz pone un silbido.
Woman is central to the expression of
Orientalism, particularly in Spanish language poetry and literature,
which foregrounds the archetypal attributes of irrationality
and mystery personified by priestesses, pagan temptresses, sorceresses,
and assassins (8). The match between Tórtola Valencia
with the literary taste for Orientalism was exemplified when
Tórtola Valencia's photograph in Danza de Anitra
was featured beside the poem by Villaespesa (excerpted from Andalucía:
Revista Literaria, 1912).
En el centro de un círculo sonoro
de víctores, erótica sonríes
mientres repican crótalos de oro
tus dedos enjoyados de rubíes.
Teje lúbricas danzas tu ligera
Planta sobre el damasco de la alfombra,
Y proyecta la negra cabellera
Sobre tus hombros un temblor de sombra.
It was in this Spanish language context
of Orientalism that the modernistas elevated Tórtola
Valencia, acclaimed in the European varieties, to the status
of a serious concert artist. In the dedication of his novela,
La zarpa de la esfinge, Antonio de Hoyos y Vinent expresses
Valencia's embodiment of modernista ideals and fantasies:
Tórtola: tú eres el símbolo
de la belleza única. Antes de conocerte yo te había
visto danzar ante Herodes como Salomé, bailar en el desierto
entre los tigres como Cleopatra [. . . ] Eres el ensueño
hecho carne. [ . . .] Déjame depositar a tus pies, ¡divinos
pies enjoyados de Icono!, la ofrenda.
A la gloria de Tórtola Valencia:
Oro, Incienso, Mirra (9).
Valencia danced at the Ateneo for a
benefit organized by the prestigious playwright, Jacinto Benavente
(España Libre, 12 Feb. 1912). A tribute to the
dancer was delivered by Benavente, and Ramón Valle-Inclán
read selections of his prose, illustrated simultaneously by Valencia's
dancing. The King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, was present for this
occasion. A royal benefit for the Real Dispensary Antituberculoso
afforded another opportunity for Valencia to perform at the Ateneo.
The program included Valencia's dances La muerte de A(sa)
and La danza del incienso; poetry readings by Alvarez
Quintero, Eduardo Marquina, and Francisco Villaespesa; a musical
concert of Meyerbeer, Tosti, Massenet, and Wagner; and the Teatro
Español, in an excerpt of Guimerá (program,
14 Feb. 1912). Queen Victoria Eugenia attended the event. Tórtola
Valencia's art was truly acknowledged as 'high culture' in such
The first complete dance concert presented within the hallowed
walls of the Ateneo occurred on Jan. 24, 1913. Tórtola
Valencia danced: El cisne (Saint-Saëns), Vals
capricho (Rubinstein), Danza de Anitra and Danza
de los gnomos (Grieg), La serpiente (Delibes), and
Tirana (later known as La maja), composed by Jésus
Aroca. Director of the orchestra, The Corvinó Quartet
accompanied the dances, and played classical music selections
between each dance number. Spanish critics described Valencia's
dances as elegant, serious, religious, and not appropriate for
the masses; thereby justifying her inclusion within the bastion
of high art. She accomplished in Spain what Isadora Duncan had
done for the early modern dance elsewhere in Europe and the United
States; that is, dance may be considered as an art form worthy
of intellectual and aesthetic contemplation.
In early February 1913, Tórtola Valencia was elected to
membership in the Ateneo of Madrid. Valencia claimed much later
that she was
the first woman and the first dancer ever elected to this prestigious
academy (10). A faction of the older, conservative members initially
objected strenuously to the election of a woman, and especially,
a woman associated with the varieties. The younger modernistas
prevailed. No doubt the path had been paved by Valencia's previous
success at the Teatro Real in the Ateneo. During the voting proceedings,
another candidate for election was hotly contested, and after
that long debate, it was reported that Tórtola Valencia's
candidacy to the Ateneo was approved without incident. García
Sanchiz, the Ateneo member who engineered the victory, reminisced
that her election was an achievement without precedent; a female
dancer in the same league with writers, such as, Valle-Inclán,
Marquina, Azorín, and Echegaray. After her death, García
Sanchiz wrote that Valencia had pressured him to put her name
forward for nomination. "Tórtola was diabolical (11)."
Descriptions of Tórtola Valencia's
dance style, as culled from reviews, articles, and essays tell
us much about her interpretations of the exotic and mythological
women that she represented (12). The characteristic element of
her dance is its plasticity; it is essentially sensuous; Tórtola
Valencia gave "the impression at times, of something supernatural,
as a mysterious force of nature unleashed, and taking its course
(13)." Elsewhere, she is described: "intense as a rose
agitated by a hurricane (14)." Her dancing is vigorous,
earthy, passionate, not light and airy. She fascinates the public
without the acrobatics or virtuosity of ballet. She does not
follow the music slavishly, but responds to her own impulses.
The most commonly used words to describe her dancing are: dramatic,
intense, passion, violent, dark, threatening, fierce, strong,
barbaric, savage, fiery vitality, grotesque, explosive, wild,
and mad. She also is
described as: voluptuous, seductive, agile, undulating, sinuous,
curvaceous, feline, continually agitated, abrupt, tortured, weighted
down with woe, spiritual; always compelling, electrifying, fascinating
and spell-binding to the audience. Valencia demonstrated extreme
flexibility of the body, and used contortions, particularly in
La serpiente. She claimed to have more than 2000 poses
in her dances, and one observer noted that she changed from one
position to the next with "incredible rapidity", turning
on the spot "like one [of] those rare twisted columns of
medieval gothic architecture."(15). Her entire body was
actively involved, but she was particularly expressive with her
arms, hands, face, and eyes. She had an uncanny ability to transform
herself into the various characters that she represented, and
her dances evoked a series of diverse images that produced emotional
responses from her audience. It is clear from these descriptions
that Valencia's dance style was more than merely decorative;
she was emotionally expressive and intensely dynamic.
Tórtola Valencia wore colorful, opulent, extravagant costumes,
which were sometimes considered shocking for the time in their
brevity. She danced barefooted, except for particular character
dances, such as La Maja. Always accompanied by a live orchestra
of local musicians, Valencia traveled with a musical director
to ensure the tempos were consistent for her dances.
Hyperbolic prose that rivaled modernismo poetry was abundant
in the reviews she received during her tours of Spain and Latin
America. Long articles by respected writers in praise of Tórtola
Valencia appeared in the press, translating the content of her
dances into poetic imagery, for example:
En carávanes y en alcázares,
entre beduínos ó emires, en los palacios de la
mesopotamía y de Andalucía, ha cimbreado esta mujer
su torso cálido y ha retorcido sus brazos con serpenteos
cabalísticos. En Caldea, donde aprendió mágicos
signos y conjuros danzó también siguiendo el ritmo
de los astros, y Salomón comparó acaso la esbeltez
fuerte de sus piernas con los cedros de Líbano y sus pechos
con las toronjas. Manuel Abril (16)
Valencia collected her press clippings
and tributes, and used them to great advantage as a press kit
during her extensive tours to Mexico, Central, and South America
(in 1916, 1918, 1921-25, 1929-30). Included in all of her performance
programs was a page titled, Impresiones sobre la danzarina.
These impressions were her tributes from respected Spanish poets,
writers, and artists; for example, Ignacio Zuloaga, Ramón
Valle-Inclán, Pompeyo Gener, La Condesa [Emilia] de Pardo
Bazán, Antonio de Hoyos y Vinent, Carmen de Burgos, Tómas
Borrás, Marcos Jesus Beltran, Eduardo Marquina, H. Anglada
Camarasa, José Frances, and Eugenio Noel. She also included
poems dedicated to her (Santos Chocano, Francisco Villaespesa,
Eduardo Marquina, Fernández Ardavin, Martínez Palva,
Ramón Valle-Inclán, Pío Baroja, Ramón
Pérez de Ayala, and many others.) Rubén Darío's
poem, La bailarina de los pies desnudos, was occasionally
included in Valencia's programs, and has been attributed as a
eulogy to her. However, Darío's poem was written in 1907,
the year before her professional debut (1908), so Tórtola
Valencia could not have been the inspiration for it.
Valencia encouraged local poets wherever she performed to write
and dedicate poems to her. In Mexico (1918), she was accused
by her enemies in the press of bribing young, starving poets
with free meals and tickets to her performances in exchange for
poems inspired by her dances. The bribery which Valencia allegedly
committed to obtain her poems is not authenticated, but eight
poems in her collection authored by different poets are written
on The Palace Hotel stationery (San Juan, Puerto Rico), suggesting
that they were written at a social gathering (Los poetas á
Tórtola Valencia). Nevertheless, well known poets
have poems dedicated to her in other collections. For example,
this excerpt from López Velarde, in Mexico, 1918:
A Tórtola Valencia
No merecías las loas vulgares
Que te han escrito los peninsulares.
Acreedora de prosas cual doblones
Y del patricio verso de Lugones.
En el morado foro episcopal
Eres el Arbol del bien y del mal.
Piensan las señoritas al mirarte:
Con virtud no se va a ninguna parte.
Monseñor, encargado de la Mitra,
apostató con la Danza de Anitra.
Foscos mílites revolucionarios
Truecan espada por escapularios,
Aletargándose en la melodía
De tu imperecedera teogonía.
Tórtola Valencia collected over
150 poems that were dedicated to her during her career (18).
It was her intention to publish these poems in a book, but that
I have concluded that Tórtola Valencia's had the most
impact in Spain between the years 1911-1915. After her debut
in Madrid (1911), she appeared with great acclaim in several
other cities in Spain (Granada, Málaga, Valencia, Zaragosa,
Valladolid, Barcelona, Cádiz, Sevilla), and fulfilled
engagements in many European countries as well. Her tour to South
America in 1916 received mixed critical responses, particularly
in Brazil and Uruguay. However, the year she spent in Mexico
(1918) was triumphant, in spite of a small coterie of enemies
among the Mexico City critics. Salomé, one of the
most popular works in her repertory, was created and premiered
in Mexico. Returning to South America, Mexico and Central America
in 1921-25, Tórtola Valencia perhaps had the most enthusiastic
accolades of her entire career. Her artistry that seemed strange
to South Americans in 1916 was almost universally praised on
her second tour there. Her reception in Spain after 1918 was
appreciative, but somewhat muted. In 1919 Valencia toured to
Northern Spain. She received less press attention for her artistry
and fewer engagements in the major Spanish cities.
New trends in art and literature may have eclipsed her modernista
supporters, although their tributes, essays, and poems never
failed to impress newspaper journalists and critics throughout
Spain and Latin America. The final tour to South America in 1929-30
was well received, but a sense of nostalgia appeared in some
of the reviews. Valencia did not adapt herself to new artistic
movements, but continued to pursue her same artistic path. The
last performance of her long and celebrated career took place
in Guayaquil, Ecuador in April 1930. Tórtola Valencia
was forty-seven years old. She retired to a quiet and comfortable
life in Sarrià, a suburb of Barcelona, with her adopted
daughter, Angeles Vila Magret, until her death in 1955.
The author gratefully acknowledges the
assistance provided by the Institut del Teatre, Centre d'Investigació,
Documentació, i Difusió (C.I.D.D.), Deputació
de Barcelona, Spain. I thank Professors Teresa Kirschner and
Allen W. Phillips for directing my attention to the Mexican poet,
Ramón López Velarde. Portions of this article are
adapted, or excerpted, from Iris Garland, 'Early Modern Dance
in Spain,' 1997; 'Tórtola Valencia and the Mexican Critics,'
1998, and 'How Did She Dance?' 1998.
(1) See Lily Litvak, España 1900, 15. Litvak states
that in the period between 1880 and 1913, different terms are
used to describe the branches, some contradictory, of literature,
art, politics, science, and philosophy that 'expressed dissatisfaction
with the materialism, mass culture, rationalism, and impersonality
of the middle class at the end of the 19th century.' (For example:
'naturalistas, impresionistas, prerrafaelitas, parnasianos,
simbolistas, decadentes, estetas, generación del 98, ocultistas,
idealistas.') For the purposes of this article, the sometimes
overlapping terms modernistas and the generacion del
'98 will be used, because these terms refer specifically
to Spanish and Latin American literature and art practices, although
these categorizations may not precisely apply to all of the artists
(2) Darío, Rubén. `Palabras liminares,' preface
to Prosas profanas, as cited in Sieburth, 81.
(3) See Baroja, 127-135; also, Paz, 97-117, discusses between
the evolution of modernismo in South America and Spain.
(4) Tórtola Valencia Archive, Institut del Teatre, Centre
d'Investigació, Documentació, i Difusió
(C.I.D.D.), Deputació de Barcelona, Spain, (hereafter
referred to as C.I.D.D). All newspaper article references are
(5) Tórtola Valencia, Notes on the Dance. Valencia kept
a personal journal in which she wrote her philosophy of dance,
noted her conclusions about the history of dance, and recorded
her observations of the regional dances of Spain. It is not dated,
except for a single reference to the year 19ll, nor are the pages
numbered. The journal appears to have been written entirely within
a short period of time.
(6) Federico García Sanchiz wrote the following pocket
novels and short stories in which Tórtola Valencia was
named as the protagonist: El secreto de Tórtola Valencia
with drawings by José Zamora; Tórtola Valencia
y la guerra: la bailarina, el príncipe y el bohemio,
reprinted in La Esfera, año 1. Núm. 28,
Madrid: 11 July 1914; and Champagne, reproduced in Mefistofeles,
Mexico City: 6 Jan. 1918. Flirt by Pedro Ferrer Gibert,
Barcelona, 1916, was another pocket novel inspired by Tórtola
Valencia as the main character.
(7) Los poetas á Tórtola Valencia, 1908-1930, Fol.141,
(8) See Litvak, 245-258.
(9) Antonio de Hoyos y Vinent, La zarpa de la esfinge,
in Los Contemporáneos, Número 320, Spain,
1915. The novela was illustrated with drawings of Tórtola
Valencia by artists: Valentín Zubiaurre, Anselmo Migues
Nieto, Rudolfo Berely, Rafael de Penagos, Moya del Pino, José
Zamora, Torre Isunza, Presno. This special issue of Los
Contemporáneos included 20 pages dedicated to Tórtola
(10) Interview, The Times of Brazil, São Paulo:
28 May, 1921.
(11) Federico García Sanchiz, 'Colaboración de
la vanguardia', La Vanguardia Española, Barcelona:
16 Mar. 1955.
(12) Citations and sources are from Tórtola Valencia Archives,
(CIDD. This style description of Tórtola Valencia is excerpted
and adapted from Iris Garland, `How Did She Dance?' 1998.
(13) Obituary by Carlos Toledo, 'El Arte Inolvidable de Tórtola
Valencia,' Razon, año 2, No. 19, Havana: May 1955.
(14) Antonio de Hoyos y Vinent, El Día, Barcelona:
2 Feb. 1917.
(15) 'A Real Spanish Gypsy Has Come to Show New York Yet Another
Kind of Dancing,' The Evening Sun, New York City: 3 Nov.
(16) Manuel Abril, 'Los Diosas de la Danza: Tórtola Valencia',
La Mañana, Madrid: 16 Dec.1911.
(17) Obras de Ramón López Velarde, 210-211.
(18) See Los poetas á Tórtola Valencia.
Amor y Vázquez, José.
1987. Noticia de poetas en danza (o, de Valencia [Tórtola]
a Valencia [Guillermo]). La s relaciones literarias entre España
e Iberoamérica. XXIII Congreso del Instituto Internacional
de Literatura Iberoamericana. Madrid: Universidad Complutense,
Baroja, Ricardo. Gente del 98:Arte, cine y ametralladora.
Edición de Pío Caro Baroja, Madrid: Catedra, Letras
Hispánicas, 1989. 127-135.
Darío, Rubén. Palabras liminares, preface to Prosas
profanas. Poesía.Introducción y selección
de Pere Gimferrer. Barcelona: Planeta, 1987. 36.
Garland, Iris. Early Modern Dance in Spain: Tórtola Valencia,
Dancer of the Historical Intuition. Dance Research Journal,
29/2, Fall (1997): 1-22.
__________. Tórtola Valencia and the Mexican Critics.
paper delivered to the Movement and Continents: The Meeting of
Cultures in Dance History Conference. Universidade Técnica
de Lisboa. Oct., 1998.
__________. How Did She Dance? Capturing the Essence of Style
in Early Modern Dance. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Congress
on Research in Dance: The Art of the Moment: Looking at Dance
Performance from the Inside Out. Ohio State University. Nov.,
Hart, Stephen M. The Avant-Garde in Spain and Spanish America.
Corner. Number one, (September). http://www.cornermag.org/corner01/page06.htm, 1998.
Kushigian, Julia A. Orientalism in the Hispanic Literary Tradition.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991.
Litvak, Lily. España 1900: Modernismo, Anarquismo,y
Fin De Siglo. Barcelona; Anthropos, 1990.
López Velarde, Ramón. Obras de Ramón
López Velarde. edición de José Luis
Martínez. México, 1990.
Los poetas á Tortola Valencia. 1908-1930. 1952. Vol. I.
and II. Tórtola Valencia Archive. Centre d'Investigació,
Documentació, i Difusió (CIDD). Institut del Teatre.
Deputació de Barcelona, Spain. Bound photocopy.
Paz, Octavio. Traducción y Metafora. Edición de
Lily Litvak. El Modernismo. Madrid: Taurus, 1986. 97-117.
Said, Edward. Orientalism. NY: Vintage, 1979.
Sieburth, Stephanie. Inventing High and Low: Literature, Mass
Culture, and Uneven Modernity in Spain. Durham and London:
Duke University Press, 1994. 81.
Tórtola Valencia Archive. Institut del Teatre. Centre
d'Investigació, Documentació, i Difusió
(C.I.D.D.). Deputació de Barcelona, Spain.
Valencia, Tórtola. (1911). Notes on the Dance. Personal
journal. Institut del Teatre, Centre d' Investigació Documentació,
i Difusió (C.I.D.D.). Deputació de Barcelona, Spain.
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