A Look Under the Skirt of a Bata de Cola
Most people are fascinated when seeing a flamenco dancer in a bata de cola on stage. If you have ever wondered what a bata de cola looks like from the inside or even thought of making one yourself the following overview might help.
A bata de cola can be a skirt or a dress. A skirt is more practical for classes and rehearsals, both skirt and dress look great on stage. I will concentrate on the skirt part since it is there where the bata de cola differs from other flamenco outfits.
The skirt consists of 6 panels with the back part ending in a “cola” i.e. tail. Pattern pieces look something like this: .The “cola” can be longer or shorter but most often the length of the back seam, from waist to the end of the “cola”, will be a little more than the dancer’s height.
Looks aren’t everything; a bata de cola needs to be fit for dancing. To make sure it allows for the required movements and doesn’t flip over a few points need to be taken into consideration:
- Material A bata de cola is generally fully lined, right to the “tip of the tail” in order to achieve the necessary
stiffness and weight. Fabric choice is up to you but keep in mind that a light weight outer fabric requires a heavier material for the lining, perhaps even two layers of lining. If the bata de cola doesn’t have enough “body” it will collapse and flip over while dancing. Check out Flamenco Fabrics – What to Buy for more tips on choosing fabric.
- Weight A bata de cola needs some weight. Without it it won’t move well. That said, there are very light weight bata de colas that work wonderfully for certain dances. One thing is certain, if it is too heavy it becomes difficult to manage. What exact weight is right is a matter of personal preference and also depends on the way dance. They key is to find the ideal balance between weight and body in order to manage the bata de cola the way you want.
- Cut The skirt must fit snugly around the hips. If it is too lose it is difficult to move the cola. How tight it should be below the hip depends on your dance technique. Some of my clients move the cola only with the lower part of the leg and therefore prefer the skirt tight, others need more space in order to dance comfortably. Trial and error is again the way to go. The same is true for length and shape of the cola but consider – the longer and bigger the cola the more difficult it is to move.
- Length I have already talked about the length of the cola. Another important point to look at is the length at the side. It needs to cover the shoe when you lift your leg out to the side. This is how you move the cola and if the skirt is too short at this point dancing will be more difficult. If it is too long though you might step on it (and there goes the elegance …)
- Ruffles How many and what kind of ruffles you have on the outside is up to you. Ruffles add volume and weight. When you are starting out dancing with a bata de cola you probably don’t want too many. An extra ruffle is often a solution when the bata de cola is a little too light or not stiff enough. When the bata de cola doesn’t have many ruffles the ruffles are made of two layers to give them some lift and add to the stiffness of the cola. For the same reason a bata de cola has ruffles, usually made from tulle or some other stiff material, on the underside .
Every dancer is different and each one has to figure out what works best for her. It often takes some experimenting until everything is right. But it is worth the effort, don’t you think?