La Moneta. Photo © Edward Olive

Muy Especial – Vancouver Playhouse, September 23, 2017
La Musica Del Flamenco – Waterfront Theatre, September 24, 2017

Wearing jeans and white sneakers, and her hair hanging loosely to her shoulders, Fuensanta La Moneta sat casually among the small audience inside the Waterfront Theatre to watch her musicians perform a short set in La Musica del Flamenco, the final event of the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival. She was barely recognizable as the explosive Flamenco dancer that commanded the Vancouver Playhouse stage the previous night. As her two singers Juan Angel Tirado and Sergio Gómez “El Colorao”, and guitarist Luis Mariano slipped effortlessly between casual banter and moving performance, it reminded me how candid artistic expression can be – no props, just their voices, their hands, one instrument, and their souls.

La Moneta performed her show, titled Muy Especial, the night before at the Vancouver Playhouse. Her performance, in the traditional Flamenco style, was raw, rousing and full-throttle. In several segments of her 90-minute show, she tirelessly pounded out clean and complex rhythms with her feet. Complimenting her impressive footwork were the dramatic gestures of her body that seemed to extract the very essence of her being with every reach, flick, twist and backbend. She was wild and unhindered, while her steady, piercing gaze exuded complete control. She was more bravado than subtle, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but her show evolved through a dramatic arc that suited her expression so well, I couldn’t imagine it being performed by anyone else.

The first of four acts was a sort of awakening, full of long, drawn out strides, with an emphasis on stillness that gave the audience the chance to admire her commanding stage presence. The second act built up into an intense crescendo that led to an exploration of more sombre, anguished emotions in third act. In the last act, she showed us her playful side with a lighter mood and smiles to the audience.

Her tasteful costumes, one for each act, amplified her already expansive movements. The costumes included a large shawl with sweeping fringe, long skirts with trailing trains that exposed vibrantly coloured ruffles with each kick, a navy bolero jacket with a touch of sequins, and in the last number, a polka dot skirt.

Her two singers Tirado and Gómez, and guitarist Mariano were at times overshadowed by the intensity of her performance, but their talents, Mariano, in particular, shone in the interludes between each act.

La Moneta. Photo ©Maud Sophie Andrieux