POSTMODERN INTERPRETATION: Pointing out the kind of things flamenco can do without the need to develop any of them.
The house lights go down and the audience at the Cutler Majestic feels the opening space of the stage rather than seeing it. In this darkness you hear rapid foot taps and the theater fills with suspenseful breathing. The shape of a body emerges in a spill of light, shoulders thrusting up and down in alternation, a ribcage weaving from side to side, white arms angling out. You hear finger clicks, stamps, no music. Finally you can make out a woman, in a ruffled tunic over trousers, with a shoulder-baring top, but the light pouring directly down prevents you from seeing her face as she hurls out gestures and footwork in uneven spurts.
This was the beginning of Compañía Rafaela Carrasco’s A Look at Flamenco, which World Music presented last weekend. The dancer, Rafaela Carrasco, is also the choreographer and director of the company from Seville. The way this prelude kept the audience’s expectations at bay, the irregular rhythms and syncopations, the swaying and big moves of Carrasco’s whole body, told you the show was going to be a modern interpretation of flamenco. I was sure we were in for an eclectic show, but I still wasn’t sure Carrasco could dance. She withheld any sustained dance sequences until well into the program.
Snatches of dancing and music, tokens almost, turned into other snatches before you had time to savor them. The way the show was put together seemed very postmodern to me: small showy or dramatic bits; unorthodox encounters where the men carried the women across the stage horizontally and the women hefted the men on one hip; musical flavors of piano jazz, impressionism, and Indian ragas alongside Spanish guitars and singing (by Antonio Campos).
The dancers (Rocio Montoya and Concha Jareño, Daniel Doña and Ricardo López in addition to Carrasco) came and went, projecting straight into the audience instead of making you feel they’d pulled every move out of their deepest sorrows. I didn’t mind the collage effects, but the fragmentary quality of the dancing taught me how much I value the long build-ups of passion in traditional flamenco.
Carrasco was the star of the evening, but even she seemed to be demonstrating effects, pointing out the kind of things flamenco can do without the need to develop any of them. In a duet with singer Campos, she wore a long silk skirt with the merest panel of ruffles below one knee and a short boxy jacket. She tugged at the jacket’s hem once, a suggestion of male swagger, but then she took the jacket off and twirled it around her body a few times like a matador.
Pepa Carrasco’s costume designs featured handsomely minimized skirts, luscious blue-green accents on black. These innovations were meant, I think, to give the women a slimmer, more modern line while still referring to flamenco’s big skirts and ruffles. But there were remnants of the old costume, especially the huge traditional train.