Mini-review – Abolengo – Farruquito at Sadler’s Wells 2013 Flamenco Festival

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Sunday night was the opening for the second performance of Sadler’s Well’s 2013 Flamenco Festival, a program called “Abolengo” (supposedly “heritage”) starring the dancer Farruquito. In addition to three singers (Encarnita Anillo, Antinio Villar, Juan Joe Amador) and the usual backup, he had the surprising addition of a pianist (Jaime Calabuch), which at time gave things a very cool nightclub feeling, and the Mexican dancer Carmen Amaya. I was worried he might treat her as merely a filler or someone set up to make him look better, but it wasn’t the case at all: he chose someone that set him off by matching him in talent rather than by being an obviously weaker dancer. Go Farruquito, and go Carmen for your wonderful talents. (Encarnita, I’m afraid, I found too harsh … her voice grated on me about midway through her second song and while I could see that she was well in control of her notes, it just sounded like the instrument had been broken and any sweetness could no longer be found.)
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Overall, the style of both Farruquito and Amaya’s dancing was very leg focused – when they danced together (as in at the beginning), there was some big arm swoops, but pretty much no gentle twists of the hands and wrists. It all felt very masculine, a feeling that wasn’t helped by the focus on speed throughout. I like my flamenco to have more buildup, but (much as it is with some men!) this performance nearly entirely avoided slower moments in favor of BANG BANG BANG spin *bounce* OLE! When Amaya did her long solo toward the end of the piece, I felt like I finally had a chance to relax and enjoy some artistry rather than just seeing flamenco stunts. Still, there was much to be said for Farruquito’s penultimate dance, “Improvisasion en una mesa.” As my companion said, “That was my kind of table dance!” And in his grand finale, my God, the man was spinning in the air and bounced off his knees – I think he gave Ivan Vasiliev a run for the money. The audience was hugely appreciative; I was happy to not be bothered with bata de cola faffing and having Amaya and Farruquito dancing together on an equal basis with a similar focus, even though, in the end, this was not the kind of flamenco I prefer – it was just too hard edged.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday, March 17th, 2013. The 2013 Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival continues through March 27th.)

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