Choreographer Susana di Palma of Zorongo Flamenco tapped into the grotesque for her latest work in progress, “Los Caprichos,” inspired by a series of Francisco Goya etchings of the same name. The image-heavy dance — with rhythmic flamenco punctuated by moments of stillness and creeping, sinister movements — sets a chilling mood in the Cowles Center’s Goodale Theater in downtown Minneapolis.
Masks created by Armando Gutiérrez and music composed and played by guitarist Ben Abrahamson helped inform the grisly atmosphere. Often, the imagery came right from Goya’s etchings. For example, straight off the performers re-created Goya’s “El Sueño de la Razón Produce Monstruos” (“The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”). Di Palma, as “The Artist,” awoke to find herself in a nightmare, surrounded by spooky-looking owls and bats.
Later, a hooded figure with a basket full of baby dolls began plucking out the feathers inside each of them and eventually enveloped one in a cloak, making the baby disappear. And yet amid these moments of horror came humor as well, such as when dancers in donkey masks sat through a reading and arithmetic lesson.
Di Palma, who founded Zorongo Flamenco in 1982, remains the most tantalizing dancer to watch, with a passion so fierce that smoke emanates from her. Even in moments of slow disquietude, where she seemed to search and meander in the darkness with unusual rhythms created with her feet, fingers and hands, Di Palma had an engrossing presence.
The second half of the program, “Flamenco on Fire,” boasted the talents of guest artist Antonio Arrebola, who performed a solo in addition to choreographing a trio. Like Di Palma, Arrebola displayed a simmering fire quelled by the austerity of his precise form.
“Flamenco on Fire” had more of the audience-pleasing moments than “Los Caprichos.” Made up of two trios and numerous solos by dancers and musicians, the work had flair and fantastic costumes by Ted Sothern — such as the delicious ruffled trains that Andrea Frenzel, Deborah Elias and Amanda Dlouhy handled coyly in “Alegrías.”
However, “Flamenco on Fire” got a little long and lacked the weight of “Los Caprichos,” which had something really powerful that we hope will be shaped more fully as Di Palma develops it.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis writer.