She is called “La Piñona” and she is magnificent. I have seen US dancers perform in Flamenco; the women sometimes seem to me too sweet, smiling at their male partners and flirting in the accepted way.
Not the Spaniard La Piñona.
When I saw her dance last weekend as part of the three week Festival Flamenco Alburquerque at the University of New Mexico—which includes classes, seminars, and fourteen evenings of dance—she was as remorseless as I remember the women I saw dancing in Seville.
Her performance that night was called “Emovere,” translated as movement toward the outside, to put oneself in motion. And motion it was: sweeping, wide-armed gestures, unusual in Flamenco, whirling with her great skirts airborne, approaching the male musicians and singers who were placed at the four corners of the stage with their weeping, bleeding, pleading, somber melodies, taking the white rose from her hair. She offered it to each man, then, as he reached for it, she snatched it back.
The whole tragic history of Spain seemed contained in this music and these movements. I remember visiting the family house of the playwright Lorca, from which he was snatched by the Fascists during the Spanish Civil war, assassinated and thrown into a mass grave. Nobody knows to this day where his bones rest.
La Piñona would understand that destiny. As she said of her dancing in the program notes, “Every emotion has a consequence, and this itself is the movement. I do not conceive of one without the other. All the years of my career… are transformed into a testimony: mine.” This is the “I I do not wish to lose.”
There is pleading in some of her gestures, as there is pleading in the musicians’ songs—a desperation in the face of what has to be—the darkness of history. It can only be accepted.
And there is stillness, so rare on the stage in any performance. At the start of her first number, “Re-signation,” as the musicians lament and urge, La Piñona sits absolutely still on a chair in the center of the stage. Her eyes are downcast, her arms limp at her sides, her great flame of a dress stilled.
And then, as the result of some mysterious inner urging, she suddenly stands up and stretches out her long arms in a world-embracing gesture of welcome and challenge.
Then she begins to dance.