Spanish Dance has been taught in the Phoenix Valley since the late 1940’s when Spanish-born dancer, Eduardo Fernandez, began teaching in Central Phoenix. Fernandez was from Asturias and moved to Phoenix from Los Angeles, where he had danced with Eduardo Cansino (1895-1974*), the father of Rita Hayworth.
In 1950 8-year-old Lydia Torea began her studies in Phoenix under Fernandez. Torea’s mother was from Galicia. In 1952 they traveled by boat to Spain and arranged for lessons under Juan Sánchez Valencia El Estampillo (1879-1957). By age 16 she was performing in Arizona, California and on regional television shows. At age 18 she moved to Madrid with her mother, who was from Galicia. She studied with Regla Ortega, Alberto Lorca, Hector Zaraspe, and commissioned choreography from Antonio Gades.
Referred by her teacher, Regla Ortega, Torea got a job performing at the Corral de la Moreria in Madrid. By 1961 she was known as “La Gitana Blanca” and graced local magazine covers. That year, she auditioned and earned a place in the José Greco Company. With him, she toured the world as principal dancer, partnering Pedro Azorín and Greco himself.
It was there that she worked closely with Paco de Lucía and his brother Pepe de Algeciras. Paco and Pepe were the youngest in the company, with Paco aged 16. Torea was in charge of looking after the boys. It was in Torea’s room in New York that Paco first met and played for Sabicas. Also during her Greco years, Torea played a featured role in the Stanley Kramer film, Ship of Fools, playing opposite Lee Marvin and Vivien Leigh.
After parting with the Greco Company, Torea founded, the Lydia Torea Spanish Dance Company. She contracted los Bronces Gitanos and other artists from Spain and secured bookings in New York and Miami and appeared on the Hollywood Palace.
Torea later returned to the Phoenix Valley to become a fountain of knowledge and culture, inspiring thousands and training hundreds of dancers through her programs throughout the Valley. She directed the troupe and non-profit organization, Artes Bellas
Another Arizona flamenco figure was Laura Moya (1914-2007). Born in Vancouver, she moved to New York and started dancing in 1928. She joined a vaudeville act at age 14, and later joined Alberto Torres’, Havana-Madrid where she learned flamenco. Throughout her career, Moya performed for the Spanish consul, at Carnigie Hall, the Copacabana, the St. Regis Hotel, Teatro Hispano, and toured the USA and South America. She performed with la Argentina, the dancer who gave Jose Greco his start and who signed Carlos Montoya as his guitarist. Carmen Amaya came to see her perform in New York.
Moya moved to Arizona from New York with her husband, pianist/composer George Rosner, and family in 1960. She established her studio, the Institute for Spanish Dance in the late 1960s in Phoenix, AZ and taught there for the next four decades. She produced innumerable shows throughout the Valley and inspired many students. She died at age 92 in Phoenix in 2007.