Performing Arts: Dance
May 25, 2018
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, a leading American flamenco dance company, celebrated its 35th anniversary with the première of Mujeres Valientes during the 2018 BAM Spring season. This choreographic proposal depicting Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Manuela Sáenz resonates with the current discourse about women who take the stand and lead as advocates in education, artistic expression, and social justice. According to its choreographer, Belén Maya, their lives are an example nowadays of how women with strong ideas go through countless obstacles in their life, empowering themselves by showing they are capable of building the lives they want to live.

Belén emphasizes how Carlota Santana, founding director of Flamenco Vivo, is using flamenco, a traditional and a contemporary evolving art form, to tell modern stories. The artistic collaboration process for this piece included talented artists, musicians, and dancers from both, the US and Spain, with the original concept by Ana Inés King, the score by flamenco guitarist Gaspar Rodríguez, and the dramaturgy direction by Rafael Abolafia. The lyrics in the cante por Romance included verses from Sor Juana’s poem “Hombres Necios que acusáis” (You Foolish Men), and a Taranto with content from the letters Simón Bolivar wrote to his loyal revolutionary colonel and lover, Manuela Sáenz.

Mujeres Valientes opened through an intermittent exchange of illumination and blackout introducing glimpses of two nuns and a woman dressed in an elegant scarlet dress in a bare stage with only two stacks of books in opposite corners. A coquettish Guajira enlivened the scene where Juana employed her books as the traditional fan in this flamenco palo of Caribbean origin.

Moments of photographic plasticity captivated the audience when Estefanía Ramírez, in the role of Sor Juana, encircled two men in velvet black cassocks, Emilio Ochando and Isaac Tovar. While the men exchanged angular and round phrases responding to the accents and cadences of Sor Juana´s poems por Romance, Estefanía complemented her percussive footwork throwing at them pages she tore from her books.

An austere Martinete marked the transition from Sor Juana to the story of Simón Bolivar’s “liberator.” Gaspar Rodríguez, directed the music ensemble situated in a lateral balcony conformed by himself at the guitar, accompanied by his homologous, guitarist Pedro Medina, singer and percussionist Francisco “Yiyi” Orozco, singer Jesús de Utrera, and the wind instrument artist Diego Villegas.

In a pre-show interview, company lead dancer, Elisabet Torras, explained how Belén guided her through the choreographic process of researching and embodying the role of Manuela, role which empowered her beyond the stage as a woman and a flamenco dance artist. The performance proved Elisabet´s growth in strength, stage command, and artistic maturity. Her subtle gestures conveyed the narrative as powerfully as her percussive footwork dialogue por Taranto with the accomplished flamenco dancer, Isaac Tovar, as Simón Bolívar, both dressed in military uniform.

The evening closed with a traditional flamenco cuadro section with an elegant traditional Caña and Farruca magnificently performed by guest artists Guadalupe Torres and José Maldonado respectively. The last number was a Fin de Fiesta by the Flamenco Vivo company, where Carlota joined her Associate Artistic Director, Antonio Hidalgo, in the festive sequences of solos and duets, with a pataíta por Bulería leading to a joyful finale with the whole ensemble exiting embraced while singing Todo es de Color.

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