Farruquito, Sadler's Wells London

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The Independent Culture

In a show full of thundering footwork, Farruquito is the one who can do quiet. He draws himself very slowly up, withdrawn and thoughtful. That stretch of the back is gripping long before he adds the raised arms or powerful legs.

Juan Manuel Fernandez, called "Farruquito", headlines the last and most impressive show of the Sadler's Wells flamenco festival. It's also the most traditional, with old songs, good musicians and a whole family of dancers. In his early twenties, Farruquito is the head of a flamenco family. One number is performed by three generations of dancers, from a young boy up. Another is a tribute to Farruquito's mother, who also designed the costumes.

These are a series of plain flamenco uniforms: grey, then black, white, or gauzy sage for all the dancers. A headache for a critic trying to distinguish Farruquito from his brother Antonio, called "Farruco": both slim and supple, with flowing hair and serious cheekbones. Farruquito's powerful restraint distinguishes him, but not at once: in the first half, he was dancing with less force in his upper body. Farruca Mia, the solo for his mother, had fine detail but didn't match the authority of his later dances. Still, his technique is immediately formidable. The footwork is marvellous: rolling beats with knees and hips barely trembling, building to scissoring jumps or stamps. He springs down to his knees and up in one move, ankles crossing, and beats with the outside of the foot as well as the sole.

It's a broad range of sound, and of rhythm. He trades cries for steps with the singers, but without repeating their patterns: often a quiet answer to a howling song. There's an edge of confrontation, but not of simple competition. At that point, the singers had stepped away from their microphones, and were better for it. The show is over-amplified, with a loss of sound quality and intimacy.

The show is dominated by male flamenco, with substantial solos from Farruco and from Juan Montoya "Barullo". Farruco is a flashier performer than his brother, but he has tremendous force and speed. Barullo is sturdier, with emphatic shifts of tempo.

Pilar Montoya "La Faraona" is the show's flamenco matriarch: vast and imposing, with no loss of dignity in those wriggling hips. She struts on to claim a dance with Farruco, and her shifts from flirtation to fellowship are lightly, grandly done.

There are group numbers, soloists taking turns or sweeping on together. For the finale, all the dancers circle around Farruquito. Molina stamps forward, brandishing his guitar, and addresses a last song to him. I think he was proclaiming Farruquito worthy of his flamenco ancestors, but it sounded like a catalogue of consuming woe. Flamenco as a blend of comradeship and grand, isolated feeling.

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