Modernismo and the Dancer, Tórtola Valencia


Iris Garland
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.


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 profanas:

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 flowering.

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 sound (5).

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 (Litvak, 201-225)

Valencia's dance interpretations incarnated the inextricably bound erotic and sacred themes of the modernistas, as is evident in Ramón Valle Inclán's poem:

A Tórtola

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.

Ramón Valle-Inclán (7)

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.

Francisco Villaespesa

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 rarefied company.

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:

Fábula Dística
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.

Ramón López Velarde (17)

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 never materialized.

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 mentioned.

(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 from C.I.D.D.

(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, Vol.2, No.12.746.

(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 Valencia.

(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. 1917.

(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, 332.

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., 1998.

Hart, Stephen M. The Avant-Garde in Spain and Spanish America. Corner. Number one, (September)., 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.