IMPULSO, documentary, not rated, in Spanish with English subtitles, Violet Crown, 2.5 chiles
Rocío Molina is a flamenco dancer who wears knee and elbow pads, dances while smoking a cigarette, opens a concert with the sonic shock of rock guitar, and frequently has no idea what is about to happen when she steps on stage. Impulso, the title of this 2017 documentary written and directed with rhythmic originality by Emilio Belmonte, refers to Molina’s impulse toward improvisation. “I have grown to crave the unknown,” she says. “Flamenco is nothing but rhythm. I use it with more freedom than some. I play with it. It’s like bread dough — you flatten it, stretch it, and you let it rest.”
Molina performs as a solo dancer with a group of musicians. She is clearly a virtuoso classical flamenco artist, as are her musicians. Their choice to open up the form, to take it to another place — to modernize it, if you will — is not particularly unique, but the style and intensity with which they do so are. The film focuses on the premiere of a new production, “Caída del Cielo” (Fallen from the Sky), at the Théâtre National de Chaillot, in Paris. Rehearsals are shown in Paris as well as during the summer before the premiere, at a rural rehearsal space in Andalucia, Spain. In addition to excerpts from the final production, there are performance snippets showing her offering “impulsos” at various locations, like in the Art Deco lobby of the Chaillot, which overlooks the Eiffel Tower, as well as by the sea, in Malagá, and at the Jerez Festival, where she performs in a jumpsuit with what looks like plastic fringe covering her pants.
Despite what may seem like some gimmicky ideas (see the cigarette), the power of Molina’s performance is clear, as is its effect on audiences. She wraps herself in a voluminous white dress with traditional frills and then takes to the ground, where the costume logically becomes a bedsheet, the dance a dream. Elsewhere, her plastic costume includes a long cola (train) dipped in blood-colored paint. The dance takes place on a stage covered in white paper, and the director shoots from above, showing the traces left by Molina’s movement like some kind of Japanese brush stroke painting, or a crime scene.
Molina’s mother is brutally honest during an interview, stating that sometimes the intensity with which her daughter approaches dance and performance scares her. “She becomes this monster,” she says. Molina, on the other hand, is interested in showing the “amazing power of woman.” She comes offstage in Paris, where her mother has been watching. “Mama,” she reassures her. “You know I do this for fun.”
Impulso is part dance documentary, part travelogue, and a fascinating look into new aspects of an old form. Molina’s version of flamenco is powerfully felt and worth watching. — Michael Wade Simpson
Stamp and tap: Rocío Molina