Sadler’s Wells has found the dance equivalent of the Yukon in making this young Spaniard one of its International New Wave Artists. There’s certainly “gold in them thar heels”! Rocío Molina is a multi-award-winning performer for whom the term flamenco dancer – for all the centuries of culture this brings – is nowhere near enough. Her dance is sure-footedly rooted in flamenco tradition but it also fuses other elements of Spanish classical dance into a distinctively personal style. It is more than a unique trend since Molina seems to be in the process of establishing a new culture and philosophy of flamenco for the 21st Century. It is intensely physical, relentlessly rhythmic and curiously introspective.
Molina is rarely off the stage in this 80-minute, one-woman tour de force. Her three male accompanists are a gravel-throated singer (José Ángel Carmona), a superb guitarist (Eduardo Trassierra) and José Manuel Ramos, known as ‘Oruco’, a remarkable hand percussionist (or Palmista). There are no other dancers but each of these musicians performs with Molina and the percussive duel she has with Oruco, where they seek to match each other’s knuckle-rapping and foot-tapping, has a force of compelling intensity.
The star herself is a tiny, yet powerfully compact and curvaceous, figure; with a mostly expressionless face and formidable gelled hair pulled back tightly into a single long plait. Occasionally, a series of fast spins or a surprisingly swift change of direction might be accompanied by a brief but flashing smile. She wears costumes that are not typical of flamenco, including knee-length leggings, a plain black gown and a seductively transparent, tight black top that accentuates her breasts, but it is Molina’s fluid, pliable arms, hands and rapid feet that continually mesmerise. Arms that ripple like water; hands that twist, turn and bend improbably; and feet that rattle out rhythms faster than the highest velocity machine gun. The two halves of her body frequently seem to belong to different minds co-ordinating separate sets of rhythms. The dark, sombre minimalism of the bare set and the effective amplification of the dance platform give her energetic spirit a remarkable surround-sound effect.
The whole ambience of Danzaora – apparently a made-up word to try to define this new language – is very much as if the café has closed for the night and the performers are having a private jam with the lights turned down low. There are touches of everyday humour in Molina’s interaction with the detritus of the day: temptingly she pours a glass of wine and then, later, after a particularly ferocious solo, toasts her audience, takes a swig and then dances a Spanish equivalent of a sword dance; speedily tapping around the wine glass on the floor so forcefully that the vibrations of the glass add another dimension to the music; before imperiously crushing it with a quick stamp. The broken glass remained there for the rest of the performance, trembling away with the force of the steps in her trance-like final solo.
One extraordinary dancer, three outstanding musicians; all dressed in black with little variation in colour or lighting and no set to speak of. It doesn’t seem enough to fill a theatre the size of Sadler’s Wells but regular shouts of encouragement during the performance (jaleo, an important augmentation of flamenco) and the complete standing ovation at her curtain calls shows that this young superstar of Spanish dance has the talent and presence to fill any venue.