Accompanied by three somber guitars and two mournful singers, tiny Spanish dancer Pilar Rioja, now past 70, struts onto the stage, spine erect, exuding poise and confidence. Her vast experience helps create a really strong stage presence, and her “first farewell tour” is drawing a loyal following of fans. From the delicate curl of her fingers to the rapid, rhythmic tapping of her feet, she flirts with the audience, beginning with a slow, elegant
guajira, in which she twirls a fan, framing her face and lithe body. Lips pursed and brow furrowed, she curls her arms inward and grasps her skirt fervently. By the end of the program, spectators are yelling and clapping as she swivels her hips seductively to the contagious rhythms of the rumba. Invoking the melancholy and the jovial, the feminine and the masculine, Rioja manifests
el duende, the passion of flamenco. Catch her while you can.