¡Viva La Tati!

Many years ago, indeed decades ago, when I still lived in Madrid, it occurred to me one day that instead of merely listening to flamenco or watching it whenever I could, perhaps… just perhaps… I could try learning to dance myself. The thought came all of a sudden and it shocked me at firs,t because it was so unexpected, but then quickly took over and became an obsession. At the time, I made some enquiries about where I might go to learn and I was told that if ever there was a teacher who knew how to teach people to dance, it was La Tati. By the time I found out where La Tati taught, my own life had changed course  and I found myself in London much against my will. Years later, I went back to Madrid on a fleeting visit and slipped into the awe-inspiring building that Amor de Dios used to occupy back in the late 1980s  in the street of that name. I asked if La Tati was around that day. She would be, I was told, but she was not there right then and there.

Earlier this month, I was in Amor de Dios again and finally met La Tati. With help from the director of Amor de Dios, I observed a class she taught. What a personality she has! This is one unforgettable teacher indeed. She moves through the studio like a leopard, her arms cutting the air, her brow furrowed, her eyes intense and concentrated.  The classes in Amor de Dios are small but intense. La Tati is truly remarkable, because she is both a teacher who is relentlessly rigorous and also immensely humane. The students, as a result, are totally focused. Perhaps what I liked best about La Tati was the fact that she forced her students to listen to the guitar and to respect the music. Too often, flamenco lessons are about what the dancer is doing and not about dialogue between the dancer and the guitarist, who is relegated to the corner of the room and expected to somehow just keep going. Small wonder that La Tati has taught some who went on to become great artists… She forces her students to strive for perfection. And the challenge of dance is that perfection is always fleeting, transient, caught just in passing, in the heartbeat of the moment.

Many good dancers perform as well as teach, but not all are good teachers. La Tati is an exception. She excels at teaching and at performing. It has been said of her that she is ‘a prima flamenca who has inspired a generation. 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.’

I now have a plan. To go and take at least one class with La Tati at my earliest opportunity. La Tati is a legend in her own time. And rightly so, because she brings tremendous integrity to dance, coupled with fire and courage. Not many dancers can do that.

April 30, 2011 Post Under General - Read More

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