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BWW Reviews: Feelings & Flamenco's Feminine Mystique

Dancer Rocio Molina and vocalist Rosario La Tremendita transformed flamenco as feminist and
modern in Afectos (Feelings), their U.S. Premiere on March 21st. Accompanied by double bassist Pablo Martín, Molina and Tremendita captivated at Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC). With sensuous simplicity, they claimed their place in a tradition predominantly guided by the male voice in an eclectic program.

Afectos could be considered a young person's guide to an old soul. Molina's cheeky charisma and youth endeared her as somewhat of a Spanish Shirley Temple. A sensation since her eleventh birthday, Molina began her career in the company of bailaora María Pagés. She has since trained and toured internationally with many other flamenco artists (Israel Galván of note).

The stark set included a rocking chair, overstuffed chair, a few tables, single light bulbs swaying, instruments scattered across the stage, and a coat rack Molina visited frequently to transform her look. The design gave off a basement hangout for the vibes of old friends. Molina took the stage, bright red shoes in hand; Martín plucked his double bass; Tremendita sat grasping her guitar as Molina whimsically balanced on a stool, using a second guitar as a prop.

Zen acquired, Molina put on her shoes and shrugged a grey overcoat over her black, mesh cut-out unitard. The three worked together, but in a less aggressive manner than most flamenco ensembles. Molina and Tremendita roamed the stage. Martín synthesized their whispered murmurings to loop breathy echoes from their microphones, which drew chuckles from the audience. In return, they tapped their knuckles on the sides of the guitars and double bass in percussive harmony.

The musical heartbeat fluttered as Molina donned a lacy black shawl. She embodied the torment in refusing to bow to social constructs (16th century Spanish forced conversion to Christianity) as she stepped into the box flooded with light, sadly scraping her feet against it. She added a hint of rock 'n roll to her exquisite technique as her pelvis sank between her legs in a powerful stance. She abstracted moonwalking vis-à-vis Michael Jackson. The melancholy voice of Sephardic gypsies resonated; sharply jutted movement and stuttered vocals emoted the conflict of a beautiful, unyielding woman known to be "of a certain character."

Enough sorrow, Molina time traveled to Cuba in the section Coffee with Rum. She pranced back and forth with Tremendita. Their percussive instruments expanded to include friendly slaps to the derriere, thighs, and belly. Molina referenced contemporary movement again, one-upping her own repertoire with pop and lock actions.

Shrouded in smoky blue light, Molina returned to balance upon a stool. Her movement slowed and loosened in her body. In homage and farewell, Martín laid his double bass in front of her. The feeling? Enchanted by an ingénue, the oversold house rose to its feet shouting (as it had throughout) "Olé, Olé, Olé!" and "Bravo!"

Photo by Anna Lee Campbell

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From This Author Melia Kraus-har