While booking my tickets for Spanish choreographer and flamenco star Sol Picó’s One Hit Wonders, I was more than a little curious, and to some degree sceptical, about what an experimental showcase of a very traditional form of cultural expression would entail. It took little more than five minutes of Sol’s first piece, an unapologetic satirization of the expectations attached to her art form, to quell my suspicions and completely draw me in. Staring the audience down from the starkly bare stage, she embarked upon a flight through her performance highlights in passionate defiance of anyone questioning her continued relevance as an artist. A woman who can leap through a bed of cacti blindfolded, be spun at a 45 degree angle whilst strapped to metal frame and jump across the stage whilst in a full split is one deserving of recognition and respect, regardless of her age.
I will admit that despite having a childhood revolving around dance, I knew relatively little about flamenco further than what is packaged and sold to tourists as a microcosm of the stereotypical Spanish culture – with added fringing and dramatic guitar solos. It was, however, immediately obvious that Picó’s work is more than just your typical flamenco. Grounded in classical balletic training, her work enmeshes impeccable contemporary technique with the dramatic flourishes one has come to expect from the traditional flamenco form. She takes this fusion one step further by performing her flamenco steps, normally stamped out by the ball and heel of a dancer, in full pointe with a furious accuracy and violence that drew a collective wince from the crowd. From a deep plié to assisted pas de chat to a series of impressive assisted lifts, Picó’s training is the strong basis from which her creativity flourishes, allowing her choreography to be both visceral and vulnerable simultaneously.
During the final two pieces, Sol fights back against those who claim she is past her peak, that those that can no longer do must teach. She shouts out into the crowd that the lingering light of twilight is the most beautiful of the day and invites us all to bask in it with her. Over a track of stripped-back acoustic guitar and haunting vocals, bathed in warm red and alone on the stage, she performs with complete emotion a whirlwind of stamps and kicks, each sinew stretched to its limit. This rousingly beautiful finale to a performance that is at once touching, funny and thought-provoking is a testament to Picó’s sublime talent and I defy anyone who sees it to disagree with me when I say that while Sol Picó may be many things, she is anything but a One Hit Wonder.
For more information on Sol’s work see her website.