Posts Tagged ‘Rocío Molina’

Mini-review – Metafora -Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia at Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival 2013

March 24, 2013

Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia is the perfect beginner’s introduction to Flamenco, and this seemed to be reflected in the matinee audience on Saturday. It was full of schoolchildren and people who hurried to be inside the auditorium on time – the complete antithesis of every other performance I’d been to since the festival started. And, if I fess up, I’d decided for conservative seat in the first balcony way in the back, so obviously I had decided this was not the show to blow the wallet on.

The program started well, with a group of musicians to the back of the stage, and three men dancing in front of them. Then a red veil draping the rear third dropped away, and five women dressed in turquoise long-skirted dresses (“bata de cola”) were revealed, to my joy. They proceeded to the front of the stage and begin to do the magnificent dancing with the shawls whirling and the tails of the skirt being frequently and effortlessly kicked away as they spun around. It’s a hard style to show off your footwork, I think, but it’s really just a joyful spectacle, and I sat there grinning like a loon the whole time. And then the salmon-frocked Pastora Galvan (I think!) came out and showed the young chickies how it was done.

And then … well … I kind of felt like things lost their energy, perhaps because I think Flamenco doesn’t naturally lend itself to being performed in unison by groups. The only memorable things about the rest of teh show, for me, was the handsome solo of Ruben Olmo, skinny as a rail but powerful as hell and looking utterly focused, and then a languorous performance by Rocio Molina, with more of the unusual, angular arm work she’d done during her solo show but with considerable restraint to her personality. Except for a bit of singing, nearly the entire second half of the show was done to canned music, which for me totally killed the feeling, as one of my favorite things about flamenco is the feeling of connection between the singers, the musicians, and the performers – the electricity as they look at each other, trying to anticipate what would happen next – it was totally gone, It was just people doing exactly what they’d rehearsed in the studio, and it had exactly the kind of feeling of electricity and improvisation you’d expect from that. Ah well, I enjoyed the Alegrias section well enough as well as the chance to see so much of Pastora Galvan and once more of Rocio Molina, and, you know, for twelve quid I can’t complain much.

(This review is for the matinee that took place on Saturday, March 23rd 2013 at 2:30 PM. The Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival continues through March 27th.)

Mini-review – Danzaora – Rocio Molina at Sadler’s Wells 2013 Flamenco Festival

March 20, 2013

My third opportunity to see Rocio Molina perform was an occasion for some thought afterwards. She’s proven her mastery of the techniques; it’s now, clearly, time for her to start demonstrating her abilities as an artist. To that effect, she chose a stripped down set: her, three accompanists, a square pillar with a vase and a goblet; and a small seating area in the back. The focus was really on dancing, and what dancing makes you think about when done well: the way music and footwork interact (her and a glowing tambourine); the body as an instrument (as one of her palmeros added in some much more complicated footwork); the artifice/necessity of accessories in flamenco (hair as a part of a dance; pistachio green versus granny shoes in a “I’ll choose whatever tool I want to suit my dance” style).

Ambition, I think, overtook this show; my experience as a flamenco audience was quickly overwhelmed by my years watching modern dance, which it seems Ms Molina hasn’t acquainted herself with. She was clearly moving flamenco forward from its rather smothering tradition (i.e. Farruquito’s show), achieving brilliance during the flamenca versus palmero section (which had echoes of Indiana Jones’ Nepalese drinking game) and deliciously warping the fabric of space and time during the “dancing to the echoes of my own feet” section at the very end. But as modern dance this show came of childish and half baked, with thin ideas and a reliance on cheese (“I smash the glass beneath my feet!” and “Behold! I shake the bells on my head!”) rather than depth and … well, intelligent modern dance. So I found parts of if it quite painful, but I was still able to accept its failings as the experiments of a choreographer trying to push the limits of what she knows, while hoping that perhaps she might get out and see how much broader a vocabulary and tradition exists than the one she seems to be working with.

My final thoughts were that there seem to be about four types of flamenco performances, which I define as follows: Ye Olde School, hypermasculine and choking on tradition (Farruquito); I Feel Pretty, the tourist tablao, with lots of long skirts and fans rather than excellent dance (Nuevo Ballet Espanol); “This time do it without the scarf” (a Brady Bunch reference), a show which attempts to be “modern” that fail but may feature excellent dancing (tonight); and shows that actually push the art form forward (Israel Galvan, coming up Sunday but my review of his last show here; Paco Pena’s Quimeras). The last is, of course, my favorite kind; but what I enjoy about the Flamenco Festival is that it gives me a chance to see so many different kinds of flamenco performed that I feel like I have had a chance to really get exposed to what is going on in today’s flamenco scene, even from as far away as London. On to the next show (for me) Friday: Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The Flamenco festival continues through March 23rd.)

Review – “Mujeres” (Merche Esmeralda, Belen Maya, Rocio Molina) – Sadler’s Well’s Flamenco Festival 2009

March 18, 2009

Last night I went with W to Mujeres, the second show in the Sadler’s Well’s 2009 Flamenco Festival. I picked this show because I thought it was the most outstanding opportunity to see really good, “pure” (not group choreography) flamenco during the festival – with three outstanding performers, I assumed there’d be lots of opportunities for solo work. As it turns out, there was also several group (or couple) pieces, but they were generally quite spontaneous and fun. But onto the show itself …

The idea for this show was that there were to be three women dancing: Merche Esmeralda, who’s been dancing since before I was born (which I guess makes her around 60); Belen Maya, who is probably in her thirties; and Rocio Molina, who was generally being billed in the festival as a young gun and mostly qualifies as such given that she’s about 25 years old. So it wasn’t quite three generations of bailaoras, but darned close thanks to Ms. Esmeralda. In addition, Diana Navarro was performing solo singing duties, with accompaniment left to the three guitarists, four singers, and a percussionist.

Rather than review the performance piece by piece, I think talking about the individual dancers would make more sense. Here are my impressions.

Belen Maya, after starting the show windmilling her fans like Pete Townsend in the group opener, came back for a solo in a gorgeous white polka-dotted dress with brown trim and a fabulous Robin’s egg blue slip that occasionally made an appearance as she spun. She came onto the stage slithering smoothly sideways, her upper body motionless while only her feet moved her. At one point she matched so exactly her movement to the sound of the guitars that my mouth was hanging open. I enjoy flamenco so much because of the improvisational nature of what goes on and how the musicians and the dancers are actually riffing off of each other, but the way she just captured a sound so perfectly with her body (a turn and the lift of her arm over her head) left me wordless (hear the “ole”). Then she did it again, a different movement and a new guitar riff blending seamlessly into one work of art. Wow!

Merche Esmeralda was a great embodiment of flamenco. For her big solo, she appeared in a long-skirted white dress, looking a bit like a mad Miss Havisham (what with the ruffles and sequins on the dress) stalking across the stage. She took her time working her way into the dance and the music, but by the end, with her gorgeous hand movements, she was able to capture the energy of six musicians in one turn of her wrist. I was really impressed with her energy and enthusiasm – she clearly so much loves dance and was absolutely in the moment, showing no sign of the burnout other performers have after that many years in the field. She was really La Maestra and completely sucked me in with her regal bearing.

Finally we get to Rocio Molina, whose shorter stature and round face made her look very much like the baby of the group. But with so much youth I expected pyrotechnics, and she most certainly delivered. She carried castatets for her first appearance on stage, and she played them so fast I found it hard to believe she was doing it with her fingers. She returned for her solo in a black dress that was really unique, with a sort of sequinned shawl framing the open back, and circles cut out of the back of the skirt to show of the white petticoat beneath. As the tension built in her dance, she increased the speed of her footwork until it sounded like machine gun fire echoing off the stage, and then spun so fast and wildly that she looked like a cat getting into a fight with herself. Eventually the singers came out from behind their screens and she danced for and with them, creating a fantastic synergy of dance and voice that was extremely energizing to watch.

The evening ended with all three dancers again together on stage, each wearing a dress with a long train, in complementary colors of white (red trim), red, and red plaid. They seemed to have no ego problems (like I might expect) but instead danced and played and improved and just seemed to be having a really good time, going wild with their skirts, laughing and showing off. As they ended the show, I was standing on my seat, clapping, with tears running down my eyes – all of their energy just got me so excited and I loved it! (It’s actually a bit embarassing how much I liked it, if you normally read this blog you’ll have to forgive me for being such a pathetic fan girl.) It was a really great evening and I felt lucky to have had an opportunity to see three excellent dancers in my home town.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, March 16th, 2009.)

Flamenco Festival starts at Sadler’s Wells (and comments on the Birds Eye silent Vamps series)

March 13, 2009

Now that my week of Vamps in Silent Film has wrapped up (Salome, The Vampire, A Fool There Was, Alraune), I’m moving on to Flamenco at Sadler’s Wells. I’ve got three shows in the next 8 days – Estrella Morente (Saturday), the Mujeres gala (Monday March 16), and the Flamenco Carmen on Friday the 20th. I’m pretty excited about it – just got my email about Mujeres, and it will be 90 minutes of non-stop, toe (and heel) tapping madness! Anyway, the reviews will start filtering in soon – expect to hear about Senora Morente on Sunday.

Some comments on the silent movies I watched: I think I’ve pretty well decided I don’t care for pre-20s era silents. Alraune had good cinematography and a reasonable plot (as a sort of SF/horror movie, I saw it as being a sort of Victorian version of Blade Runner), but A Fool There Was (1915) and The Vampire (1913) were just a big mess, lacking coherence and difficult to watch.

However, I have a bigger complaint to make about the music that was presented alongside these movies. Jane Gardner’s piano score for The Vampire was okay, but Alison Blunt’s hodgepodge of random noise that accompanied Alraune made me wish it was truly a silent movie. Do these people not go to the trouble to examine the music that might have originally been made for the film, or consider how to do sound effects to enhance the experience? Blunt even missed out on a brilliant opportunity to illustrate the music the band was playing in a flapper dance scene.

I realize that my years of watching Dennis James at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre may have spoiled me a bit, but the man knows the genre inside and out. I’ve also seen The Asylum Street Spankers and Aono Jikken perform new, original silent soundtracks in a way that enhance the viewing experience. What does it take to get people to understand you can’t just noodle your way through a movie and not come off looking like a self-indulgent ass? I’ll say this much about Bishi’s performance in accompaniment to Salome: it wasn’t just original, it made watching the movie better. (Sure, the effect was to turn it into a giant music video for me, but this worked because the flick itself was so OTT.) That said, there’s no excuse for not having good music with silents. Can someone come over here and teach people how to do it right? I salute the Birds Eye film festival for investing the money in having new music created for these films, but I wish it had been done in a way that created something that could follow the movie around forever, rather than being so disposable.