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Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Program Honors Valiant Women

by Bonnie Rosenstock
May 20, 2018
BAM Fisher
321 Ashland Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 636-4100
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana’s 35th anniversary season at BAM Fisher (May 15-20, 2018) featured the New York premiere of “Mujeres Valientes,” a work for six dancers, created by flamenco legend Bélen Maya, which honors the power and courage of two of Latin America’s most celebrated women. The 40-minute dance drama was in two distinct parts, the first chronicling the life of 17th –century Mexican poet and philosopher Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and the other, 19th-century South American revolutionary hero Manuela Sáenz. The lyrics, set to the original score by music director and guitarist Gaspar Rodríguez, were taken from two poems by Sor Juana, a pair of poems about Sáenz’s exploits and an excerpt from letters from her lover Simón Bolívar, the Liberator of South America. The exceptional musicians and singers performed live, ensconced on a balcony above stage left, the Spanish cante version of a Greek chorus.

Flamenco artist Maya, 52, is considered a revolutionary in her own right. With gypsy roots through her late father, dancer and innovator Mario Maya (her mother is the late Carmen Mora, also a renowned flamenco dancer) and training in contemporary and experimental dance, she has created innovative works that were once considered daring and radical but are now hailed as exemplary of modern flamenco. “Mujeres Valientes” is an impressive addition to her canon.

Juana Inés (1648-1695) educated herself primarily from the library she inherited from her grandfather. She entered a convent in 1667 that had relaxed rules so she would “have no fixed occupation which might curtail my freedom to study,” she wrote. Even within those cloistered walls, she had a vibrant social life: from patrons, who supported her writing, and correspondence with intellectuals of the day.

The imposing Estefanía Ramírez as Sor (Sister) Juana is wearing a brilliant red and black brocade dress and holding a book. Two nuns are praying. Juana gathers a handful of books and gives them to the nuns. The three dance with a book. Ramírez does some wonderful zapateado (footwork) holding a book. The voices (singers) haunt her. She picks up some books and drops them. The music and dance are fast and furious. The nuns remove her jewelry and dress and put a nun’s habit on her. Two men enter, who are listed in the program as hombres necios, foolish men, but they are clearly priests. They represent the words from her famous poem, “Romance”: “You foolish men, Who accuse women without good reason, You are the cause of what you blame.” She points at the men, accusingly. She tears out pages from a book and hurls them at the priests. At the finale, she raises a book high in the air. Historical note: Sor Juana amassed the largest book collection in Mexico. However, her criticism of misogyny and the hypocrisy of men led to her condemnation by the Bishop of Puebla, Mexico, and in 1694 she was forced to sell her collection of books and focus on religious activities.

Sáenz (1797-1856), who was well known in her day, faded into obscurity until the latter part of the 20th century, when she became a symbol of Latin American feminist causes. The dance focuses on her tumultuous relationship with Bolívar, which dates from 1822 until his death in 1830. Elisabet Torras as Sáenz and Isaac Tovar as Bolívar are well matched as they dance their way through seduction and passion, a slow dance of submission, his rejection and finally equality when she puts on identical men’s clothes to ride horseback, which is her current popular image.

The spellbinding Madrid-born Guadalupe Torres, 35, performed the New York premiere of “La Caña,” one of the oldest flamenco songs, inspired by the great flamenco dancers of the late 19th century Golden Age. She manipulated a long-fringed shawl (mantón) like nobody’s business and whipped around her long train (bata de cola) as if she were taming it.

The electrifying José Maldonado, 33, may be from Barcelona, but his flamenco is otherworldly. He premiered the traditional men’s ”Farruca,” attributed to legendary dancer Faico of Seville, also developed in the late 19th century. The rail-thin Maldonado, with an incredible arched back, was all precision, focus, poise and amazing footwork. Just when you thought he was spent, he took off his jacket, opened the top buttons of his shirt, rolled up his sleeves and performed one more rousing round of sheer stamina and artistry. Well-deserved standing ovation.

The program also included last year’s “Pa’ Triana Voy” (“I’m Going to Triana”), choreographed by Maldonado for the company, a rousing celebration of Seville’s former gypsy Triana neighborhood. And of course, the traditional “Fin de Fiesta/Bulerías,” which gave the company one last opportunity to shine. Which they did.
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana<br><br>“Pa’ Triana Voy”<br><br>Choreography by José Maldonado<br><br>Pictured: L to R - Isaac Tovar, Eliza González, Antonio Hidalgo, Laura Peralta, Leslie Roybal.

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana

“Pa’ Triana Voy”

Choreography by José Maldonado

Pictured: L to R - Isaac Tovar, Eliza González, Antonio Hidalgo, Laura Peralta, Leslie Roybal.

Photo © & courtesy of Christopher Duggan


Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana<br>Pictured: Guadalupe Torres

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana
Pictured: Guadalupe Torres

Photo © & courtesy of Marcos Gpunto


Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana<br>Choreography by Belén Maya <br>Pictured: Estefanía Ramírez as Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana
Choreography by Belén Maya
Pictured: Estefanía Ramírez as Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Photo © & courtesy of Ben McKeown


Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana<br>“Mujeres Valientes”<br>Choreography by Belén Maya<br><br>Pictured: Elisabet Torras and Isaac Tovar as Manuela Sáenz and Simón Bolívar, respectively

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana
“Mujeres Valientes”
Choreography by Belén Maya

Pictured: Elisabet Torras and Isaac Tovar as Manuela Sáenz and Simón Bolívar, respectively

Photo © & courtesy of Ben McKeown


Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana<br>Pictured: José Maldonado

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana
Pictured: José Maldonado

Photo © & courtesy of Casa Patas

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