Much of the appeal of Spanish dancing lies in its contrasts; each part of the body dances a different emotion. The head and shoulders are held proud and rigid, the arms and back snake sensuously, the feel and legs beat fiery, passionate rhythms.
The Raquel Pen a Spanish Dance Company, which performed under the auspices of the Washington Performing Arts Society at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Saturday night, is Madrid born and Washington based and presents Spanish dance in all its complexity. Pen a's choreography blends classical, folk-traditional and flamenco.
Although Pen a presents short ballets rather than concert numbers, her pieces work better as dances than as drama. In the evening's world premiere "Soledad" (according to the program note "the story of a woman scorned and her bitter reaction to her enforced solitude"), Pen a bursts in on a wedding-in-progress screaming, "NO!" and proceeds to dance by herself, with/against the bridegroom and, at times, even followed by the entire company. It's never clear whether she actually was in love with this bridegroom or just goes around the neighborhood breaking up weddings, and Pen a's bitter passionate solo could well stand on its own without the story trappings.
The other two works on the program where the stories were merely a pretext for the dancing fared far better. In "Inspiracion," company members perform the dances that inspired Francisco Castillo drawings, which are exhibited on stage. Here, the Jota de la Dolores, an exuberant jumping dance for three men and six women, and Pen a's flamenco solo "La Cana" were outstanding.
"Caseta Sevillana" showed a springtime folk ritual, an Andalusian flamenco festival. The company's excellent soloists were given opportunities to show their abilities, and Pen a, with guest artist Manolo Rivera, stole the show with their torrid dancing.