Paula Rodríguez and Her Shawl, One Night Only at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach

Written By Orlando Taquechel
May 8, 2024 at 5:09 PM

Spanish dancer Paula Rodríguez visits Miami to offer a single performance of her show “The Beating of the Shawl” on Saturday, May 11, at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. (Photo by Luca Dommit/courtesy of CCEMiami)

The emergence of new flamenco dance artists continues in Spain. And Miami has become, little by little, a must-visit for them on this bank of the “wide river,” as the flamencologist José Luis Salinas Rodríguez baptized the Atlantic Ocean in his book “Jazz, Flamenco, and Tango: The Banks of a Wide River” (Catriel, 1994) where he addresses their shared roots.

On Saturday, May 11, at 8 p.m., at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach, the Spanish Cultural Center of Miami (CCEMiami), in collaboration with the Miami-Dade County Auditorium (MDCA), will present the flamenco dancer Paula Rodríguez Lázaro with her show “The Beating of the Shawl” (in Spanish, “El Latir del Mantón”). The show initially premiered in Santander, Spain, in November 2021.

Born in Santander in 1991, she began dancing at the age of four and studied classical and contemporary dance in her hometown. She moved to Madrid in 2007 and started her professional career in 2010.

Dancer Paula Rodríguez will offer a single performance in Miami as part of Flamengo 2024, presented by the Spanish Cultural Center (CCEMIami) in collaboration with the Miami-Dade County Auditorium (MDCA). (Photo by Luca Dommit/courtesy of CCEMiami)

With an extensive and successful career in several dance groups as a répétiteur, dancer, and choreographer, she has worked frequently in some important Madrid flamenco venues called tablaos—as a regular performer in the Cardamomo—and currently directs her own company. Today, it has five successful programs in its repertoire.

In 2008, she received her first recognition in a flamenco dance competition. In 2021, she won the “Desplante” award (female modality) at the Cante de las Minas International Flamenco Festival in La Unión (Murcia, Spain). This event is considered the most important annual competition in flamenco worldwide.

The Cante de las Minas festival was founded as a singing competition in 1961. In the 1980s, it expanded with the addition of a competitive guitar section and, in 1990, a dance section. Its highest awards are in the categories of music (“Bordón Minero”), dance (“Desplante” male and female), and singing (“Lámpara Minera”).

In flamenco dance, the term desplante identifies the moment of affirmation of the performer—male or female—when closing a section. The performer finishes with a blow on the floor and assumes a final challenging posture.

In some way, the “Desplante” award represents the affirmation and challenge of a new talent. It has been given since 1994, and among today’s most famous dancers who received it when they were very young are Israel Galván (1996), Patricia Guerrero (2007), Jesús Carmona (2012), and Eduardo Guerrero (2013).

To get an idea of the level of the competition, it is enough to add that the year Lázaro received hers, the male “Desplante” went to Rafael Ramírez, who triumphed in Miami with his show “Lo Preciso” last November.

Today, the Manila shawl is “the flamenco shawl” and an undisputed reference to elegance in Spanish culture. (Photo by Luca Dommit/courtesy of CCEMiami)

In her presentation at the Colony Theater, Lázaro will be accompanied by the flamenco singer José del Calli, who won the first prize for Seguiriyas -the prototype of a dramatic flamenco vocal style called cante jondo – in that same festival edition.

“Guajira and tango landed in Europe in the middle of the 19th century,” says Juan Vergillos in his book “New History of Flamenco” (Almuzara, 2021). Now, they returned to America as flamenco singing styles called Palos. Something similar happens with the Manila shawl, which the same author describes as originating in China.

Vergillos also explains that the Manila shawl went to the Philippines, arrived in Acapulco (Mexico) on the legendary Manila Galleon, and left for Seville (Spain) from Veracruz.

For years, it was considered an exotic imported product in Spain until its growing use and enormous popularity led to its production in Seville at the end of the 19th century.

When it stopped being used to protect oneself from the cold and walking down the street, the shawl remained alive in flamenco shows, highlighting the female dancer’s beauty.

It passed from the singing cafes as an expressive banner of flamenco emotionality to flamenco venues, concert dance, and theater (where it was immortalized by the Habanera “Where are you going with a Manila shawl?” from an 1894 Zarzuela (a kind of Spanish comic folk opera), cinema, television, and the world of fashion. Today, the Manila shawl is “the flamenco shawl” and an undisputed reference to elegance in Spanish culture.

“The important thing about a shawl for dancing is that the weight is on the bangs,” explains a charming Paula Rodríguez in the documentary “The Flamenco Outfit” (“El Traje Flamenco”), which can be enjoyed by visiting the Cardamomo Tablao website.

Depending on the performer’s style of dance, the shawl moves in very different ways, and its communicative effectiveness requires detailed knowledge of a technique that is as difficult as the training that demands the long-tailed beautiful dress called bata de cola, another stapled costume piece for female flamenco stars.

Dancer Paula Rodríguez and singer José de Calli, two award-winning artists at the prestigious Cante de las Minas International Flamenco Festival in La Unión (Murcia, Spain), will perform for the first time in Miami with “The Beating of the Shawl.” (Photo by Luca Dommit/courtesy of CCEMiami)

The performer can allow himself to be embraced by the shawl or throw it into the air, simulating a cape. She/he can transform it into a dance partner or use it as a weapon of conquest.

So, be prepared because Paula Rodríguez promises us an exciting “The beating of the shawl” —desplantes included—whose only presentation in Miami also brings good news at the local level.

This year, the FlamenGO program is part of the MDCA Away from Home Series initiative that will keep the presence of the Miami-Dade County Auditorium alive during the renovation period of its facilities.

WHAT: FlamenGO 2024 with dancer Paula Rodríguez in “The Beating of the Shawl”

WHEN: 8 p.m., Saturday, May 11

WHERE: Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

PRICES: $36.30, $46.50 and $56.50 

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