You might have seen María Pagés as the flamenco dancer in Riverdance, but she’s much better in her own show. The opening scene of El Perro Andaluz (The Andalucian Dog) shows her strengths – her long coiling arms, curvy back, the sharp definition of her poses. But this is not traditional flamenco, it is set to a variety of music, from tango to Tom Waits, and Pagés is more inventive with group composition than is usual. The company of 10 dancers stride and stamp in drilled phalanxes. A fierce tango scene sees Pagés and Angel Muñoz as lovers, with the company as a chorus who push them apart or marshal them together. Waits loosens the dancers’ discipline, adding a touch of sass. A flamenco rock number turns Pagés into a flamenco rock chick.
A flamenco rock number turns Pagés into a flamenco rock chick.
The individual episodes are compelling, but the combined effect is a little touristy. And why the title, with its reference to Luis Buñuel’s classic surrealist film Un Chien Andalou? There’s nothing surrealist about this perro: it is an Andalucian mongrel that couples with other breeds of music and has some spirited adventures along the way.
But flamenco was always a hybrid creature. If El Perro Andaluz takes it out and about, Flamenco Republic showcases its traditional features: the clapping and footwork, the songs, shawls and castanets. The company are in fine form, the pace and pitch are varied. There’s even some unexpected humour when the women compete to see who is flickiest with her fan. Such colourful, superbly danced flamenco brings the house down. But again, why the title? Flamenco is drilled, individualist, combative, passionate – anything but republican.