Mucha Muchacha dancers set no limits on creation and relish taking risks at Vancouver International Flamenco Festival

The Spanish troupe is focused on empowerment, determination, voice, participation, freedom, and cooperation

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      If you look up Generation of '27 on the Internet, you'll find a long list of men's names.

      It's a group of Spanish writers, intellectuals and artists who gathered in Seville in 1927 on the 300th anniversary of the death of baroque poet Luis de Góngora.

      The core included 10 authors, but it also included surrealist painter Salvador Dali along with composers, sculptors, and other artists.

      The lack of public recognition for women in the group has long been an irritant to contemporary women artists in Spain. And it led some of them, including dancer and choreographer Marina de Remedios, to research these women. They were known as Las Sinsombrero, which literally means "hatless women".

      That work, in turn, led to the creation of a Madrid-based Mucha Muchacha, which has adapted the ideas of Las Sinsombrero into explosive contemporary dance.

      Like the artistic women in the 1920s, the five female dancers Mucha Muchacha are all about taking risks, this time with the corporeality of Spanish dance.

      "It launched us into the work of performing arts as a company," de Remedios tells the Straight over Zoom. "We needed to set no limits on creation and escape from our comfort zone."

      On Friday (September 16), the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival will present Mucha Muchacha in its debut North American performance at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre.

      In addition to de Remedios, the company is comprised of dancers Ana Botía, Belén Martí Lluch, Marta Mármol, and Chiara Mordeglia.

      "Mucha Muchacha is focused on the ideas of empowerment, determination, voice, participation, freedom, and cooperation," de Remedios says. 

      She describes the group's eponymous work as "a contemporary dance piece" and "a declaration of our intention about movement, community, femininity,and rights".

      The group's initial work, Volumen 1, has won multiple prizes, including the Audience Award at the 10 Sentidos choreography contest. At the VI Tetuan Choreography Contest, it won the Best Spanish Dancing and Flamenco Choreography Award as well as the Audience Award.

      The artistic director of the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival, Rosario Acer, tells the Straight by phone that she was astounded when she saw Mucha Muchacha perform in Spain. She was particuarly impressed by how the group integrated flamenco with classical Spanish dance, bolero, ballet, and a little bit of folklore.

      "So they don’t do flamenco per se," Ancer says. "But they introduce flamenco with footwork and rhythm into their narrative."

      Flamenco is usually associated with elegant footwork combined with singing, Spanish guitar, and audience clapping. The artform has been influenced by dance from Northern India, Persia, the Roma people, Jewish and Arabic culture, as well as Spain.

      Mario Zamora

      According to Ancer, contemporary artists, such as Mucha Muchacha, are taking this dance form in new directions.

      "This group, especially, uses all the disciplines they've been trained on in Spanish dance to create their own movement," Acer says.

      For de Remedios and the other dancers in Mucha Muchacha, it's also referencing the corporeality of other women, be they a tennis player, pop singer, mother, or someone else.

      "Mucha Muchacha speaks of current times—about what is happening and how we feel nowadays," de Remedios emphasizes.

      Mucha Muchacha will perform its eponymous work at 8 p.m. on Friday (September 16) at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre as part of the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival. For more information and tickets, visit the festival website.