Born a Shadow: Compañía Rafaela Carrasco’s inspired show had a powerful narrative drive. The dramaturg Álvaro Tato drew a line between four Spanish women of the 16th and 17th centuries – the mystic and saint Teresa of Avila, the Golden Age feminist María de Zayas, the actress and royal mistress María Calderón, and the Mexican philosopher and poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz – by imagining a chain of letters from one to the next, with Carrasco, as a red-robed Teresa, a constant, hovering stage presence, willing on her successors.
Each was introduced with a letter read out by Blanca Portillo (the English translation projected on to the back wall), and Carrasco’s company dancers Florencia O’Ryan, Carmen Angulo and Paula Comitre embodying the woman in triplicate before one stepped forward to give the character her solo dance.
O’Ryan was a determined María de Zayas, heading out on the road to make her own destiny, although her section was rather destabilised by having the group part soundtracked with lounge jazz – a cultural mash-up too far, perhaps, considering we were already trying to process the 16th century through a filter of contemporary flamenco.
Comitre’s liquid movement to fandangos brought the emotional pain of poor, mistreated María Calderón bubbling to the surface of her dance, even as she affected an actress’s confident swagger. It was beautiful to watch, and followed by a solo to cantiñas from Carrasco of razor-sharp precision.
Angulo’s Sor Juana affected doll-like articulations, suggesting how she had to perform at the Mexican court before finding literary freedom as a nun. By the end of her solo guajira she was brandishing the feathers presented to her by Carrasco like a quill, scratching out her writings across the floor in her desperation to create. A final full company soleá was the icing on the cake.