Changing Perceptions

Not my photo - there was no suitable photo available for this performance so this is a crop of an image of Pisadas by Paco Villarta

Not my photo – there was no suitable photo available for this performance so this is a crop of an image of Pisadas by Paco Villarta


The dancer exuded raw unscripted unchoreographed and feminine energy. Haunting faces extruded from painted lines of Japanese-style simplicity. A thread of ethereal music picked the audience up slowly only to drop them abruptly again and again. No narrative, no story, no relationship of one part of the work to another other than your knowledge of intent. That intent was to investigate emotions related to rage, and for a celebrated flamenco artist to work outside of the constraints of the flamenco codigos.

Medusa is the result of an artistic residence and represents a work in progress, the result of a week of collaboration between choreographer/dancer Belén Maya, performing artist Patricio Hidalgo and musician/composer Frank Moon. As Maya said ‘This is only the beginning. No-one will see this again and next time [the performance] will be completely different’. Lead by the structured improvisations of the musician, both dancer and artist (whose creations were projected live onto the stage backdrop) were completely in the moment. Informed by an intense week of mutual artistic development, each artist responded to that moment with what felt to them to be right.

I’ve struggled with how I should write about this sharing. The artist in me wants to cover it differently to the rest of the flamenco festival because it was different to everything else in form, content and intent. The scientist in me understands that it would be inappropriate to do so. It would be asking you to compare apples and cricket balls as opposed to apples and pears. With no benchmark you’d have no way to understand just how different – and special – it was.

I’ve been left with more strong impressions than I could possibly list, but to give you an idea here are a few;

  • ghostly hands reaching out of slits in the backdrop to stroke and grasp Belén Maya’s torso as she smiled
  • a sweet bowl full of razor blades, shared with the audience
  • razor blade on tongue in closed mouth with a sublime and slightly maddened face
  • a tortured body following moves with huge depth of feeling but no attention to their history or context or ‘normal’ intent
  • violin bow on saw, a razor-sharp theremin-screech incorporated seamlessly into the music
  • on the backdrop a forest of faces coalesced from apparently random marks
  • expressions of brittle happiness contrasted with yearning movements that come from the chest and heart
  • distorted faces on the backdrop, expressive manic movements from the dance

The result was a combination of bathos, grotesque intimacy and addictive yearning that was so compelling that I lost track of time. A short Q&A followed which I’ll cover in more detail for Flamenco News.


After the sharing I was lucky enough to chat briefly to Belén Maya. She explained for me the difference in creative process between this and, for example, the flamenco karate performance she and Rafaela Carrasco delivered at the Lilian Baylis Theatre some years ago. The combination of sharing, post-show talk and this conversation made it horribly clear to me just how chafing the restrictive flamenco codigos can become. My mind’s eye has been refocussed, my perceptions have widened. Just as Medusa’s vision changed all that she looked at, I will never see flamenco the old way again.