Chiswick has a flamenco dancer. A home-grown British dancer, whose parents aren’t Spanish either, but who is nonetheless very well regarded not just in London but internationally among those who know and appreciate the distinctive music and dance of Spain.
How? Why? I asked Anita Reacher, aka Anita la Maltesa. “I’ve always danced” she told me, “from when I was three years old”. Evenings after school, (Strand on the Green Primary School and then Brentford High School for Girls) and at weekends from the ages of three to eighteen she went at least twice a week to study ballet, ballroom, tap and contemporary dance, gaining ballet grades up to level six with the ISTD – Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.
She distinctly remembers her father Chris bring home a flamenco LP by Los Gallos when she was 14. Two tracks in particular made a deep impression: a mournful Soleá, “a very deep, painful, profound ‘palo’ piece” and a more upbeat Sevillana “the folklore dance of Seville, usually danced by a couple at fiestas.”
It was not until she met flamenco guitarist Ramon Ruiz at a performance by Antonio Forcione at Bunjies Coffee House and Folk Cellar in Soho when she was 18 that she really fell in love with the music and the art form – and him.
“I loved movements of the hands and the arms and was intrigued by the footwork. The rhythms are inspiring. The most important thing is the rhythm”.
Photographs above: Jairo Barrull, Anita la Maltesa and Ramon Ruiz on guitar
They lived together in Spain for four years, where she was performing as a singer in a group and beginning to learn flamenco dancing, and were then invited to Italy where they lived the next four years and where she became successful as a flamenco performer, touring the country, with performances on TV and in clubs, theatres and fiestas.
They’ve performed all over, at the Edinburgh festival, the Juste Pour Rire festival in Montreal, in France and Germany and even on the Generation Game, where some poor soul had to try and copy her moves, to national ridicule. Now London based, she has a regular slot at Salvador & Amanda in Covent Garden and two or three times a year she performs at George IV in Chiswick, where she packs out the Boston Room.
“Flamenco is an expression of life” she says, “mostly about deep emotion”.
Photographs above: Anita and Ramon
She believes its roots are deep in Spain’s gypsy culture going back at least 200 years, but she says the 1980s and ‘90s saw a real flowering of the art form.
I’ve seen flamenco dancers in Granada and I’ve seen Anita perform here and the concentration, the passion, the flair, the showmanship and the accomplishment of her incredibly fast footwork and rhythm are every bit as inspiring. When I saw her at George IV the audience watched completely silently, almost as if the whole room was holding its breathe, so focused were they on the amazing spectacle.
She still dances with Ramon, a wonderful guitarist, and guest artists – drummers, singers and dancers. She’s performing at George IV on 20 October at 8.00pm with fellow dancer Jairo Barrull, percussionist Pablo Dominguez, singer Carlos Lobo and Ramon on guitar.
Tickets available from Anita.
Tel: 07875 768 608 / Email: Anitalamaltesa@hotmail.com