The bata de cola is such an amazing piece of costuming in flamenco. However, it’s not something you put on and prance around in. It takes lots of dedication, practice and good technique to dance well in the bata.
So, you’re ready to learn how to dance with a bata de cola? How do you pick one? Now that can be a challenge. Each one is so different from each other because of the fabric used, the overall shape, and the dancer’s ability.
But fear not, with this guide, you’ll be on your way to dancing como una fiera with a bata that’s just right for you.
As a general rule, the length of the bata, from waist to the tip, would be the dancer’s height. The one aspect that might be best for beginners is having a shorter train. A beginner might have it a bit shorter, a more advanced dancer a bit longer for added drama.
The front of the skirt should be down passed the ankles.
The first thing to realize is that lighter, does not mean better for the beginner dancer. If the bata is too light, then there won’t be enough weight to have it land properly on the floor. It would just flop around when it needs to be open. There needs to be enough weight to the bata so that it lands properly on the floor once the dancer kicks it up.
Weight is determined by the type of fabric that is used, as well as the lining of the base skirt, the number of ruffles on top and underneath. Some stitchers might add a rope to the bottom hem line for added weight, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that you hear a big “thunk” when it hits the floor. Also, the ruffles themselves can be lined with fabric or edged with bias tape.
This will be the most important element of the bata. Whereas flamenco dresses can be in various types of fabrics, depending on the stitcher and the dancer, the bata de cola NEEDS to be constructed with a more structured (or stiff) fabric.
Usually, a cotton/poly blend which is on the light side or a gabardine which is on the heavier side is used. The base of the skirt needs to be lined to create more structure to support the weight of the ruffles. Also, the zipper has to be a very sturdy one and definitely not invisible (too delicate).
The overall shape is important. If the train is too narrow, then you have no where to lift the bata with your leg. The shape, in my opinion, should be more rounded. But if the train is particularly long, then it can be more narrow as well.
Most beginners go for 3 ruffles in the front and 5 in the back. They should be tight circle ruffles and not lay flat. They can each be lined, which adds a beautiful lift to the ruffles, but adds weight. Each ruffle can also be trimmed with bias tape, which looks beautiful but also adds weight.
This is what truly separates the good bata and a poorly made one. These under ruffles can have varying numbers, but the fabric is the most important. The ideal fabric is called can-can which is a super stiff nylon. Unfortunately, truly good can-can for this section is very difficult to find in the U.S.
Some under ruffles can be just the regular circular kind, while others use a pre-made pleated can-can.
If you don’t have access to can-can, be very careful with what you use for the under ruffles. I’ve seen batas with georgette or a soft tulle as the under ruffles get torn to bits!
SKIRTS VS. HIGH WAIST SKIRTS VS. DRESSES
If this is your first bata, then definitely get either a regular skirt that sits at the waist or a high-waisted skirt. The difference between the two is personal preference. But I think that the high-waisted skirt isn’t so flattering on us more “voluptuous” women. But that’s my humble opinion. 🙂 Save getting a dress as a second bata for performance. You’ll stink it up real fast if you use it for regular practice!
LAST BIT OF ADVICE
It’s important to have a properly built bata, but in the end, it relies on the technical abilities of the dancer- not to mention how much you want to spend! Be prepared to spend at least $200 for a beginner skirt because of the all the fabric and time it takes to sew on all those ruffles. Also, if you’re really passionate about the bata, you’ll get more than one. Then you’ll really realize that they’re all different because of the fabric and style.
Cueto Flamenco Creations (U.S.)
Julia Gomez Flamenco (Spain)
Flamenco y Mas (Spain)
Flamenco Closet Creations (in Spain, but with U.S. phone)
Bata de Cola Inmaculada Ortega (Spain- she’s one of my favorite dancers!)
If you’re adventurous, you can try making your own bata de cola using a pattern from FlamencoDressMaking.com