From the time she was small, Rocío Molina knew what she was destined to do with her life. At six years old, she declared it to her mother: she was going to be a dancer.
Molina has since achieved her goal—and then some. These days, the flamenco dancer is credited with reinventing the artform.
“I never had the intention to change or reinvent anything, but this way of using my body, my emotions, and my ideas, it has revolutionized flamenco,” the Spanish dancer reflects via phone. “Each time I dance, I learn more about myself—the good and the bad.”
Molina is coming to Vancouver for the Canadian premiere of Caída del Cielo (Fallen From Heaven) on September 27 at the SFU Woodward’s Goldcorp Centre. As part of the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival (presented in collaboration with DanceHouse), it’s the revered artist’s first time performing in Vancouver—making this a huge get for the festival and its artistic director Rosario Ancer.
“My husband and I saw her for the first time as a soloist in Jerez, Spain, in 2004. And we said, ‘Oh, this girl is different.’ There is something special about her,” Ancer says. “We were starstruck. Technically, she is perfect. Artistically, she is unapologetic, smart, and very creative.”
Molina says she is excited to perform Caída del Cielo, which took over a year and a half to choreograph. She describes the experience of the performance as a descent from the paradise of perfection to darkness and flaws.
She underscores the importance of knowing and dancing traditional flamenco, but continues to add her own twist to it, including emotional interpretations of her life experiences.
“I want people to feel sensations in their body, without thinking too much,” she explains. “Just being open to the feelings, good or bad.”
Ancer agrees, adding that flamenco is a form of dance that transcends boundaries. “Flamenco is the understanding of all cultures. Even if we come from different places, flamenco shows the humanity that unites us,” she says. “You don’t have to understand Spanish to feel flamenco; I want people to see how diverse flamenco can be, because each artist brings something different to it.”
Ancer grew up in the small Mexican town of General Terán, where her father owned the only cinema. She spent a lot of her time watching movies there; one of her favourites was ¡Ay, Pena, Penita, Pena! starring Spanish actress and flamenco dancer Lola Flores.
“She did a lot of movies in the late ‘50s, and I just fell in love with her,” Ancer shares. “I could not stop trying to imitate her.”
She became enamored with flamenco, and eventually realized that to properly understand it, she needed to go to the source—so off to Spain she went.
“I was going to go for six months to learn more about flamenco, but I ended up staying six years and was fortunate enough to be contracted by two amazing companies,” Ancer says. “I always say that flamenco gave me direction to my life, brought me my husband, my family, my work—it was a blessing because I have lived a very fulfilling life, personally and artistically.”
Ancer met her husband, Vancouver-based guitarist Victor Kolstee, when he was on a trip to Spain with a Canada Council for the Arts grant. They fell in love, married, and moved to Mexico, but eventually settled in Vancouver to raise their children.
“In Vancouver, there wasn’t a flamenco scene, or an audience for flamenco,” Ancer recalls. So they decided to change that, launching the production company Flamenco Rosario and the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival in 1989.
“My vision was to honour flamenco as a tradition, and we learned from there—but then we went further, because I think flamenco is a personal expression,” Ancer shares. “You cannot just reproduce what someone else does; you have to make it your own.”
With Flamenco Rosario, she’s created pieces that talk about her personal struggles and her relationships. Kolstee recently died, so Ancer is currently working on a piece to honour him.
As part of this year’s Vancouver International Flamenco Festival, Ancer will be teaching a free intro to flamenco class on September 18 at the Waterfront Theatre. There will also be a variety of flamenco performances, but the one she’s most excited about is Molina’s. It’s a rare chance to see a master at work.
The Vancouver International Flamenco Festival runs from September 18 to 30. Caída del Cielo takes place from September 27 to 30 at 8pm at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre; purchase tickets here.