Bringing distinctive female voices to the international stage can only serve to invigorate contemporary dance, says Laura Cappelle.
Rocío Molina is breaking the flamenco mould. In her new work, Fallen from Heaven, the 33-year-old Spanish bailaora, one of the most innovative of her generation, explores her own sensuality while challenging the boundaries of traditional gender roles in her chosen art form. Equally at ease in a heavy ruffled skirt or in a matador’s jacket and tights, she is in turn swan, boxer and wounded creature. Her technical brilliance is heightened by a new sense of freedom as she reveals facets of herself, surrounded by four musicians.
It is flamenco made unequivocally contemporary and Molina is a creative force to be reckoned with in today’s dance world, where gender inequality has become a pressing issue. ‘Where are all the female choreographers?’ This question, asked by the Observer in 2013, still stands today. Contemporary dance has thrived in part thanks to female pioneers from Isadora Duncan to Pina Bausch but those early cracks didn’t shatter the glass ceiling, with few women among household names today.
‘If art is to reflect its audiences, female voices like hers enrich and broaden the scope of what dance can offer us’
Dance Umbrella and the Barbican are committed to finding, presenting and supporting new voices and bring Molina back to London three years after the triumph of Bosque Ardora. Her fierce individuality and inquisitive mind, allied with a virtuosic mastery of flamenco technique, are the gifts of a distinctive choreographer. Add to this the perspective and life experiences of a woman: Molina delves into feminine stereotypes and sexuality with gusto. If art is to reflect its audiences, female voices like hers enrich and broaden the scope of what dance can offer us.
Progressing the careers of such artists requires additional work and determination. To forge their professional path, female choreographers need not just pure talent but ‘a relentless ability to keep knocking on doors,’ says Emma Gladstone, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella. ‘Men are often picked up and supported more quickly while women need to keep reminding people that they’re there.’
Dance Umbrella and the Barbican are focused on broadening the reach of programming and encouraging artists through mentorship. This effort extends to the international stage, where female dance-makers are pushing the envelope and making bold, personal work waiting to reach a wider audience. Molina, like India’s Aditi Mangaldas who was seen at the Barbican last year, offers a striking take on the traditions that have shaped her native art form, invigorating contemporary dance in the process.
Allowing choreographers of all backgrounds to unlock their potential, with world-class support behind the scenes, means the young choreographer you see today may just be a leading light of international dance tomorrow.
Fallen from Heaven (Caída del Cielo) is performed as part of Dance Umbrella on 12–14 October
Originally published in the June Theatre brochure.