Photo Credit: @charmladonna on Instagram
When Spanish flamenco artist Rosalia was growing up, hip-hop music was as much a part of her life as flamenco music. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she said that she discovered hip-hop at age 11 and its followed her through life. Artists such as Camaron de la Isla, Hector Lavoe, Kanye West and Destiny's Child inspired her to blend together two musical genres that she loved to become one of Spain’s most important musical artists today. In 2019, when Rosalia began to prepare for her second world tour, she knew she wanted to take her live shows to the next level, and knew that renowned choreographer Charm La’Donna was the woman to help her. What she didn't know though was that a dream, and a random Instagram message, would turn into a extremely fruitful partnership for both artists.
As a child, Rosalia loved to sing and dance, but she put dance on the back burner from ages 13-23 to focus on her development as a musician. At age 16, she had to overcome a hardship when she lost her voice from singing too much without proper technique, and she spent the next year in rehabilitation really learning how to listen to music. She credits this time as a true growth point in her career because it expanded her attention to detail as an artist.
Rosalia's first record, 'Los Angeles' (2017), was minimal and was inspired more from traditional flamenco. While in vocal training, she was taught to sit down and sing like a traditional flamenco singer, so her performances centered around this album had more of a stripped, acoustic vibe. Over time though, Rosalia decided that this performance style didn’t suit her personality, and she set out to expand her range and put her own stamp on traditional flamenco music.
In 2018, Rosalia began to explore with dance again and incorporated it into her performance of 'Malamente,' from her second album 'El Mar Querer,' at the 2018 MTV Europe Awards. Soon after, 'El Mal Querer’ officially became Rosalia's breakout record when it hit #1 on Billboard’s Latin Pop Albums Chart.
For her 'El Mal Querer' world tour, that kicked off in April 2019, Rosalia wanted to put together a high-energy show with an urban twist, so she took to Instagram to contact La’Donna (who’s worked with Britney Spears, Madonna, Fatima Robinson, and Kendrick Lamar) to ask her to be the tour's main choreographer. After meeting Rosalia on Instagram, something told Los Angeles-based La’Donna that she had to be a part of this project. She quickly traveled to Spain to meet Ana Nunez, a flamenco dancer from Barcelona, and to help Rosalia with her choreography for the tour.
“I’m a girl from Compton, she’s a girl from Spain. We come from two different places, but we share common ground as two forces pushing to create.” La’Donna told Vogue. La’Donna also commented on her personal Instagram that during the 12-hour rehearsals for the 'El Mal Querer' tour, the dancers were brought together through three languages- English, Spanish, and dance.
In addition to Rosalia’s 'El Mal Querer' tour, La’Donna also choreographed Rosalia and J. Balvin’s music video for ‘Con Altura,’ which earned her an MTV VMA last summer for Best Choreography. Rosalia has gone on to perform at Coachella, Lollapalooza, and most recently at the 2020 Grammys, where she picked up the Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative for ‘El Mal Querer.’
Besides the blending of two strong musical genres, the thing I really like about Rosalia's music is that her lyrics are geared towards promoting women's empowerment. To me, there's nothing more empowering to a woman than dance. It's a form of visual art, that when coupled with music, can make you feel free. In an interview with Vice , Rosalia commented that she feels like dance has the power to let go of evil and, when watching her perform, you can tell that her passion goes well beyond the music. Performing to her is about being herself, letting the music guide her, and is just about feeling free.