In many ways, Paco Peña’s show Flamencura is typical of staged flamenco: a musical ensemble of voice, guitar and percussion, three dancers in mostly solo turns, a miscellany of scenes that showcase styles and moods. But instead of commonplaces and cliches – fireworks, passion, swagger – Peña’s dance company offers something altogether more artful: technical command and a glimpse into flamenco’s unsettled soul.
a metaphor, surely, for the caged spirit
You sense that most readily in the wailing lines of singers José Angel Carmona and Inmaculada Rivero, their voices straining against the melody yet hemmed in by strict rhythmic clapping that surrounds them – a metaphor, surely, for the caged spirit. You also sense it in the astringent guitar harmonies, in the runs of notes that keep being tugged down by descending chords. And you sense it in the dancers. Carmen “La Talegona” Rivas moves as if the very space around her were an adversary, to be considered, challenged, withdrawn from or circumvented. Charo Espino sways her hips provocatively, arms and spine undulating like serpents while she herself remains elusive, forever spiralling away from the audience. Angel Muñoz holds his arms and shoulders with steadfast composure, a foil against the gunfire rhythms of his heels, hammering the floor.
Rather than show themselves off, these performers show us their art – and in doing so, connect us emotionally with a Gypsy history marked by dislocation, suppression and resilience. So it was a genuinely inspired idea for Peña to try connecting flamenco with a similarly culturally embedded art form by bringing in jazz/blues singer Vimala Rowe as a guest vocalist for one scene. Choreographically this martinete number is spellbinding, and its theme – the bodies of people subjugated by the rhythms of labour – forms a perfect nexus between the flamenco tradition and the African American one. Shame it doesn’t quite come off: it remains an encounter between forms rather than a meeting of souls.