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Rocío Molina‘s hands snap sometimes when she unfurls her arms, a punctuation I didn’t expect. Flamenco’s usually fluid motions aren’t the only one of the art form’s conventions that she’s discarded—-gone, too, are cartoonish sexuality and a sense that you’re watching folk art. This is precise stuff, and Oro Viejo, the program about aging and the passage of time she performed Sunday night at Lisner Auditorium, seemed much less about telling a story than leaving the audience slackjawed.
That happened a lot, and not just when Molina, 25, danced alone. Her troupe takes a digital approach to its show. One number might be scored by guitarist Paco Cruz
(either Paco Cruz or Rafael Rodríguez “El Cabeza”; the program lists both but I’m fairly sure there was just one of them on Sunday night) and percussionist Sergio Martínez; another just by Martínez and Molina’s machine-gun heels; yet another by Cruz and the palmas (handclaps) of Tamar González and Vanesa Coloma. There are three dancers besides Molina—-Eduardo Guerro, David Coria, and Adrián Santana—-and they perform in various combinations, too. Plus there is a singer, Rosario Guerrero, and you never knew when she might wander out.
I was glad when she did. In her black suit and purple ruffled blouse, Guerrero looked like she should be showing you to your cubicle on your first day on the job, but there was nothing workaday about her raspy voice, which seemed to hurt her as it snaked out and wrapped around arabesque melodies. When she really got going the palmistas would let go encouraging phrases, and sometimes so would some audience members, who shouted “Olé.”
Molina got more shouts, especially when she veered toward the traditional: a pasodoble, to “La Gracia de Dios,” and a fan dance that she ended by swinging her fan sometimes like Charlie Chaplin‘s cane, sometimes like she was holding a dirty diaper as far from her nose as possible.
I wondered if that was how she felt about more traditional flamenco, though, during a languid chair-bound dance that she did with one of the male dancers she kind of looked dismissive when her motions became more flowing. (Or maybe it was supposed to represent the restiveness of middle age.) In another piece, set to Mary Santpere‘s “Donde va maría,” Molina and the three other dancers plonked themselves on a bench for some slapstick and boob jokes. It followed a similar piece set to “Limeña,” during which two of the male dancers feigned Dean Martin-vintage drunken behavior.
The screwball comedy was an interesting counterpoint to the intensity Molina usually exhibits. She has this way of jerking herself like a short-circuiting robot, but there’s no goofing there, and despite her va-va-voom bod, she’s more sensual than erotic; it’s as if she’s stripped flamenco so bare that despite the speed with which she’s dancing, you can see each motion’s relation to the next. Her shoulders quiver, her torso convulses, and her knees clonk open and shut. Reading what I just wrote, it sounds like I’m describing an electrocution rather than a stunning performance. It was very much the latter. If her dancing showed little of her personality but her determination, I have to assume that was on purpose.
UPDATE 2/17: The guitarist I saw was Cruz; a Lisner rep says Rodríguez couldn’t get a visa in time. I’ve changed the text above to reflect that.
Watch Molina in a previous performance of Oro Viejo:
The 10th Annual Flamenco Festival continues to Feb. 23 at Lisner Auditorium. On Sunday, Feb. 21, Marina Heredia and the Chekara Arab-Andalusian Orchestra of Tetouan perform; on Tuesday, Feb. 23, it’s Compañía Israel Galván.