Female choreographers and their dancers possess the
hearts and minds of audiences
Tue, May 22, 2018 – Seona Mac Reamoinn
When the audience, as if in one surge, rose to its feet as the final ripple of Catedral’s
passionate physical intensity subsided, it was more than the usual heady response to
Flamenco’s strong percussive incantation, strut and fire.
Here was exquisite performance. Patricia Guerrero, choreographer and principal dancer
of her ensemble, mined contradictory layers of her flamenco tradition; pure duende of
Andalucian gypsy ritual, but for women especially, the weight of a Spanish Catholic
past, ecclesiastical, inquisitorial and oppressively moral.
We moved with Guerrero and her three female dancers in and out of vaulted and
recessed cathedral spaces, with a whiff of incense and the strains of a sung Latin mass,
all strikingly evoked by Manuel Madueno’s theatrical lighting. He cast claustrophobic
shadow and airy light by turn and all was matched by the equally dramatic music scored
by Juan Requena for his fellow musicians and singer, in both the church and flamenco
Guerrero soared as a performer. As the young woman straining in her symbolic heavy
taffeta dress, her movements contracted to small and frustrated gestures while her torso
shuddered, trying to shake off the layers of authoritarian church and cultural rhetoric.
But when she and her sister dancers tasted freedom, Guerreros’ own genius was not
only to physically shed the layers of her dress and free up her finely attuned movement
but also to add a little freeform jazz into her polished technique and rhythm. This
manifested in swivelling turns, head and shoulders moving fluidly and slowly basking
in the contemporary flamenco guitar riffs.
Guerrero scraped and stamped, the thrill of liberation visible in the lines of her dance.
We watched exhilarated by the speed of her turns, the snapping and strutting, pure and
precise. You wanted to applaud as if it were your own skin and body tasting the air.