Rocío Molina’s world

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If the Flamenco Festival is anything to go by, flamenco seems to be entering a period of highly original, personal, even eccentric reinterpretations. A week ago, I reviewed Israel Galván’s “La Curva, in which Galván seemed torn between two poles, that of his flamenco “family” (represented by a singer and a palmero, or hand percussionist, sitting at a table), and his new, chosen avant-garde family (represented by the pianist Sylvie Courvoisier). Of course flamenco is more than one thing and always has been. Tensions about its “true,” “pure” nature are as endemic to the form as rhythmic footwork and quebrada turns. But what’s interesting about these choreographers is that they seem to be grappling with personal curiosities, trying to figure out not what flamenco is, but what it is to them at that moment.

Two nights ago, I saw Rocío Molina in her intriguing trio “Afectos” at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Molina’s explorations are less anarchic, more intimate than Galván’s. There’s less rage in her dancing, more whimsy. Like a child, Molina seems to do exactly what she wants, abetted by her two collaborators, Rosario “La Tremendita” (singer) and Pablo Martín (double bassist). At its heart, the show is a kind of structured jam session, in which the three riff off of each other. The shifting relationship between La Tremendita and Molina provides the dramatic storyline. Who are these two women to each other, and what are they trying to say? What is the relation between the singer’s voice and the dancer’s body? Who is stronger, who is the most free? You can read my review of the program here.

In this article for the Times, I attempt to summarize some of the current trends in flamenco.

And here is a short clip from Afectos:

Flamenco Nation

+ Click on image to enlarge. The flamenco dancer Carmencita photographed by B. J. Falk, circa 1890.
+ Click on image to enlarge.
The flamenco dancer Carmencita photographed by B. J. Falk, circa 1890.

I wrote this short piece about the flamenco exhibit at the New York Public Library for Humanities Magazine last summer.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“Despite his Spanish name and dark good looks, Greco was born in Italy and grew up in Brooklyn. Like many other dancers in the show, he often crossed over into the arena of less-than-authentic Spanish dance. The pursuit of “purity,” a slippery concept when discussing a dance form that is itself a hybrid of gypsy, Arab, and Spanish folk elements, did not become a burning issue until the irruption of Amaya’s fiery, “unschooled” style. The impresario Sol Hurok called her ‘the human Vesuvius.'”

Catching the Wave; The Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company at the Met (for DanceTabs)

This weekend, the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company performed at the Metropolitan Museum for one night only. Peña is one of the great flamenco guitarists; his shows are always beautifully-wrought musical events. This time he brought three dancers, including Angel Muñoz, an embodiment of the spontaneity that can make flamenco such an enjoyable art form. You can see the review here.

Here’s a clip of Muñoz in performance:

And here is a short excerpt from the review:

“More than other dance forms, flamenco thrives on the illusion of spontaneity. It’s the reason why some of the best moments in a flamenco show happen after the show has ended, when the ensemble gathers at the edge of the stage, like a happy family or a band of tipsy friends, dancing for each other. The guitarists dance, the dancers sing, and everybody claps along. Dance returns to its most basic function: a communal activity, a celebration of joie de vivre and the pleasure of good music. Great flamenco dancers trick you into believing they are making it up as they go along.”