Maria Pagés’ Yo, Carmen – a celebration of womanhood

This is not the Carmen you are thinking of. Forget la femme fatale proffered by men’s imagination. Forget seductive games and provocative playfulness.

This is about real women. The ones who cook, clean, work, care and nurture. Although this may not sound as alluring as Mérimée’s Carmen, flamenco dancer and choreographer Maria Pagés does a brilliant job at making the everyday woman a mesmerizing subject for the evening.

Through the passionate twirls of flamenco, Yo, Carmen (I, Carmen) celebrates womanhood and challenges stereotypes.

In between stamping heels, clapping hands and swirling arms, you’ll find a Carmen that looks at her mirror and takes off her flamboyant dress and flashy accessories, to accept herself as she is.

You’ll find a Carmen that condemns anti-ageing products that are force-fed to women by the beauty industry.

You’ll find a Carmen that affirms her place in society through self-determination and free will.

In flamenco, too, the emancipation of women is plainly visible.

Flamenco is a world that’s been historically male-dominated, but women have carved their voices through time and Yo, Carmen makes that crystal clear; it is an all-female show designed by women.

Choreography, direction, dancing, music, poetry –  the female artistic voice impregnates the performance throughout.

And it is astutely entertaining. Halfway through, Maria stops everything valiantly to engage in a semblance of a dialogue with us.

Her wit and showmanship – or more precisely, ‘show-womanship’ – fill the auditorium with laughter. Delighted whoos and approving claps emanate from the crowd. Her charisma is indisputable.

“We are all Carmen”, she says, “we dignify women.” For sure, the message has infused the audience’s collective mind. It is a poignant feminist rhetoric illustrated by one of the most poignant art forms.

Yo, Carmen is part of the Flamenco Festival London, Sadler’s Wells, 14 – 25 Feb 2018

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