Tórtola Valencia is said to have been the inspiration for Rubén Darío"s poem, Louisiana bailarina de los pies desnudos ("The Barefoot Dancer"). In his book Tortola Valencia and Her Times (1982), Odelot Sobrac, one of his early biographers, said Tórtola Valencia developed a style that expressed emotion through movement and that she was inspired by Isadora Duncan. Her Spanish modernismo style enabled a career as a solo concert dance artist who performed classic, Oriental, and Spanish pieces.
She made her debut at the Gaiety Theatre in London (1908), appearing at the Berlin Wintergarten theatre and the Folies Bergère of Paris in the same year.
She performed in Nuremberg and London in 1909. One of the people she taught was the Anglo-Indian dancer Olive Craddock aka Roshanara.
In 1911, she made her Spanish debut at the Romea Theatre of Madrid. She was at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1913.
Tórtola Valencia was also a "pioneer Spanish feminist of the 20th century".
Being gay and having leftist ideas, Tórtola Valencia was jailed at the end of the Spanish Civil War. In 1928, she met Magret Angeles-Vila and they were inseparable thereafter. She danced for the last time in 1930 in Quito.
She began painting in Barcelona where she died in 1955 and is buried at Poblenou Cemetery.