The word ‘flamencura’ means the very essence of flamenco, its heart and soul; and that’s what this show by the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company brings us in two unflagging hours of sublime guitar music, singing and dancing.
Divided into two parts and 10 sections, Flamencura provides showcase numbers for all its performers: two guitarists besides Peña himself, one percussionist, two singers and three dancers.
The company is introduced with Verdial, an ensemble number based on the traditions of the Málaga region. And immediately the tone of the evening is set: the profound connection between all these artists means that they perform with each other and for each other, so that you often get the sensation that you are eavesdropping on an intimate ritual.
The impression is compounded by the show’s subdued lighting. For one of the early numbers a section of the stage is bathed in mottled light reminiscent of the shadows cast by a camp fire around which a group of people just happened to come together to sing and dance.
It’s a ritual that embodies centuries of the history of a people, the gypsies of Andalucia, their pain and their suffering, so cogently carried in the raw insistent voices of the singers, José Angel Carmona and Inmaculada Rivera.
Beyond that, though, the ritual also illustrates their sense of humour, resilience, defiance and the relish with which they grab all that life has to offer so potently illustrated in the dancing of Angel Muñoz, Charo Espino and Yolanda Osuna.
Their zapateo on a board wired for sound rings out in a multitude of rhythms, sometimes almost unbearably intense, others light and playful. Charo Espino’s pliant back, ondulating hips and sinuous arms bring a sensual charge to her dancing; dark-haired Yolanda Osuna, new to the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company, is a fiery dancer who can project a brooding darkness.
And veteran Angel Muñoz is a powerful masculine presence on the tablao, his stirring dancing a strong reminder of the macho traditions of southern Spain.
Paco Peña’s single guitar solo, Rondeña, comes early in the first half of the programme, his crystal clear, plangent notes casting a magic spell over the audience. It is a measure of the humility and generosity of this great artist that he doesn’t seek to hog the limelight, and is content to give his company plenty of opportunity to shine.
There is a nod to the legends of a deeply superstitious people in the final number of the first half: Petenera, where a man dances with his fate - or perhaps his death. It is a dance of total absorption performed within a small pool of light in an otherwise completely dark stage; and it moves inexorably to its dark end, where fate/death wraps the man tight in her black shawl, this gesture surely symbolising her victory.
Petenera is an entrancing number; as is Granaina, where Yolanda Osuna, wearing a striking turquoise dress and a large cream/gold fringed shawl, performs a slow gentle dance in the style of Granada, making the shawl twirl and dance along with her to the music of Paco Peña’s guitar.
The second half of the programme seeks to probe the links between the harsh social and cultural conditions which gave birth to flamenco and those that generated the music emerging simultaneously among African Americans in the American south.
Guest jazz singer Vimala Rowe takes her place among the company, her voice as haunting as that of her Spanish counterparts; though whether the blend of traditions so distinct, though born of similar pain, is as harmonious as Peña hopes, is certainly open to discussion.
The show ends with lively ensemble number, but don’t leave just then. After the first wave of applause there is a surprise in store by way of an unexpected extra offering, which brings the house down every time. No spoilers, though…
|What||Paco Peña, Flamencura Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
08 Aug 17 – 12 Aug 17, 19:30 Sat mat 14:30 Dur.: 2 hours 20 minutes approx.
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|