Culture, Globe, Music, United Kingdom

Flamenco: your name is Irene

When talking about the style of music and dance created in Andalusia, we usually think of a traditional show with dancers dressed in flowers and ornaments. There is, however, a different, much more contemporary style, originated in Cuba.


 Ibis Frade


For a whole weekend the Cuban company Irene Rodríguez was on the billboard of the Joyce Theater in New York, a place known in the city’s artistic circles for offering the very best in international dance.

The company took up the challenge of putting on five performances over the course of three consecutive days: on 18th January, its debut of the show “Más que flamenco” (More than Flamenco) shocked spectators, who rose from their seats several times amid cheers and shouts of “Bravo”. Irene Rodriguez impressed the audience of the Joyce Theater with the powerful force of her feet and her frenetic stamping. Before beginning the performances, the director of the company told Prensa Latina that she again wanted to delight the audience of the Joyce Theater, a place where they performed for the first time in 2016.

On that occasion, she recalled that the company got a spectacular review in The New York Times, the group was praised for its technique, its demand and the intensity of its dance.

The publication also praised Irene Rodríguez’s passion in her dance and movements. “Thank you for trusting in me and a Cuban company to bring flamenco to this city,” Rodriguez told the friends who were waiting for her at the end of the first show.

She explained that she wanted to present a different flamenco show, in the contemporary way in which her group conceives it.

“When talking about flamenco, we usually think of a traditional show with dancers dressed in flowers and ornaments, but ours is much more contemporary,” she says.

“It has,” she adds, “a current and reformist vision, and minimalist stage setting where everything falls precisely on the quality of the interpretation of the dancers and of course, of the musicians.”

The group highly values choreographic montage, they look for it to have artistic interests that are much more progressive and deeper in the stories they tell. In her words, the idea is to make flamenco a universal language – such as contemporary or classical dance – and not a folkloric style that can only be executed by Spanish performers, the principal dancer, teacher and choreographer said.

For this reason, for the group’s second opportunity to be on the Joyce Theater’s billboard Rodriguez opted for the two-act show “Más que flamenco”, which includes several pieces of her devising and premieres in New York.

Irene says she wanted to take “a bit of our art and the warmth of our culture, in this case, through flamenco and the vocabulary and style of the Irene Rodríguez company.”

At the beginning of the first act, the precision and synchronicity of the steps of “El mito” (The Myth) – a choreography in which only the feet of the dancers are seen – aroused deep admiration at the Joyce Theater from the first performance on Friday 18th January.

The audience responded with euphoria to each of the pieces: they felt the pain in the gestures and slow movement of Irene Rodríguez and her dancers in “La pena negra” (The Black Pain) – inspired by a poem by Federico García Lorca – and they shook in their seats with the rhythm of the stamping.

The climax, however, always came with “Amaranto” (Amaranth), a solo where a sensual Irene looks defiantly at the audience, challenges her musicians and gives over the powerful force contained in her small body and the passion and skill of her impetuous heels.

Irene promised to finish the show with a different ending each day so that the musicians and dancers could present their art with more freedom and feel closer to the audience. And she fulfilled that promise. She also made it clear that in her company everybody knows how to dance flamenco, even the performer who plays the box-drum.

As they desired since arriving in New York, in the midst of the freezing temperatures of January, great cheers broke out in the Joyce Theater, leaving behind a bit of the heat of Cuba and the culture of the island. In January 2012, Irene Rodríguez created a company driven by the same passion that made her skip her classical ballet classes to go to Spanish dance classes when she was a child.

Just one year after founding the group, she opened a Professional Spanish Dance School that serves as a talent pool. The company now has its own headquarters, very close to the famous Malecón de La Habana, and is recognised inside and out of Cuba, both by the public and specialist critics. (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin (e-mail – Photos: Prensa Latina

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