Review: Farruquito & Farruco - Buen Arate - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 23 & 24 February 2016
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Friday 26 February 2016

Farruquito. Photo: Sophie Mühlenburg

Performance reviewed: 23 February

Poquito means “little” and the Spanish have a linguistic penchant for ending words or names with “quito” to indicate anything exiguous. For people, it has become a pet name for a son or younger brother. So, it follows that Farruquito is the grandson of the legendary gypsy dancer, El Farruco; but, he is also, ironically, the older brother of another flamenco dancer, named Farruco. By coincidence, he is also the slighter of the two siblings.

Remember the Gypsy Kings, with their peculiar brand of Catalan rumba (and rumba flamenca) in songs such as Bamboléo and A Mi Manera? Well, it strikes me that these are the gypsy princes, inheriting the mantle of El Farruco and continuing the long tradition of massive influence by the Romany people (in Andalusia, through the Roma-Gitanos) upon the development of flamenco. Incidentally, their family name is Fernández Montoya: Farruquito is Juan Manuel; Farruco is Antonio, which was also the given name of his grandfather. As a matter of record, El Farruco’s grandfather, Ramon Montoya, was a gypsy guitarist; his mother – the great grandmother of today’s dancers – was La Farruca, another gypsy flamenco dancer; and El Farruco’s daughter (his only son died in a road accident, aged 18) was also a dancer, named Farruca. So, to speak in dynastic references to the Fernández Montoya (or Farruco) family’s hegemony over gypsy flamenco is clearly not over-stating the case.

This show, entitled Buen Arate, which is not Spanish but Caló, the Roma-Gitanos dialect, literally meaning “good blood” but more colloquially refers to a kind of mood; one that might correspond with our notion of aura or karma. Both are relevant to this show. The good blood signifying the idea of succession, inheritance and legacy: passing on the skills and passion of flamenco, which is especially relevant to Farruquito who made his Broadway stage debut at the age of five. Karma appearing to be the desired, idealistic outcome of the whole event.

El Farruco died in 1997. He was untrained. Self-taught to perform a form of Jondo (deep) flamenco that is peculiar to gypsy dancers and this performance – in every way – was about capturing the essence – the seriousness, if you like – of that artistic expression. Much of this is deeply personal to the dancer, leading to performances that are always on the edge of improvisation. It seems as if Farruquito, in particular, is reaching back to pluck out the duende (spirit) from those past generations.

Farruquito and Farruco are accompanied by four singers, two guitarists and a percussionist; mostly ranged across the stage in a reflective pattern; the percussionist in the centre, with guitarist, male and female vocalist ranged to the right and left of him, in that order; five men, flanked by two women. The two guitarists (Román Vicenti and José Gálvez) are given several opportunities for solos and much of the narrative intent – revolving around a “back to the earth” theme – is carried through the gesture and song of two extraordinary, larger-than-life cantaoras, Encarna Anillo and Mari Vizarraga; gypsy matriarchs clutching shawls around their matronly shoulders. As often happens at the end of flamenco puro shows, the excellent percussionist, El Polito, turned into a bailaor for the company’s encore, dancing a trio with the Montoya brothers.

El Farruco lived a traditional gypsy lifestyle on the open road and, with a backdrop changing colour from dawn to midday, reflecting the purple of a sun-drenched sky and the dull orange of sun-baked soil, the whole ensemble provided an aura of entertainment in a gypsy encampment. Farruquito and Farruco danced an early alegrías together, in outstanding harmony, but mostly the solo dancing was delivered by Farruquito, each time, with a change of suit (black, grey and green), his long hair flailing with frenetic turns and furious footwork, delivered with close control, punctuated by statuesque poses; always finishing by travelling to the front of stage and glaring into the audience for dramatic impact.

Farruco guests in just a couple of numbers, always following suit with his older brother in costume changes. He has all the speed and fury of Farruquito but not quite the same superlative level of control and balance. Farruco is larger, portly even, perhaps more like El Farruco who was heavy framed; but just as capable of exploding into frenetic action with the emotion and force of duende.

Flamenco takes so many forms. First, the cool, controlled elegance from the Flamenco Festival’s opening performance by Sara Baras and now the fiery, fiesta form of flamenco baile in its purest essence, handed down through five generations of the same family.

Flamenco Festival London continues at Sadler’s Wells until 28 February
www.sadlerswells.com



Graham Watts is a freelance dance writer and critic. He is a regular contributor to Dancing Times and also writes for Londondance.com, Dancetabs.com and other magazines and websites in Europe, Japan and the USA. He is chairman of the dance section of the Critics’ Circle in the UK and of the National Dance Awards. Twitter: @gwdancewriter

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