Dance: Passion of all ages

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Campanas Flamencas performs pure flamenco, a heady mix of music and movement. And their dancers, who range from 11 to 50-something years old, prove that talent is more important than age

I don't know if there are any plans to line the walls of the Peacock Theatre with bullfighting posters and fishing nets, but given the phenomenal amount of flamenco in their programming it would come as no surprise. On Tuesday, Francisco Sanchez and his Campanas Flamencas arrive for a five-week season. Sanchez was the man behind the superb Cumbre Flamenca, which assembled a clutch of superlative Spanish talents in a company that toured to great acclaim in the late Eighties.

The Campanas Flamencas mix is very pure. The line-up is composed of six dancers, four singers, four guitars some long sticks and an anvil. Not for them that flamenco fusion nonsense that has diluted the passions of the form. Sanchez has made mistakes in recent years when he has strayed from the straight and narrow, the most memorable being his attempt at narrative flamenco in the risible Noche de Santiago, a melodramatic love triangle that was pure jamon. With Campanas Flamencas, he returns to the clean simplicity of his earlier successes and places his faith in flamenco's most important resource: individual talent.

Sanchez's dancers literally span the generations. The oldest is in her fifties and the youngest, Nino de los Reyes, is only 11 years old. Nino, whose parents are both dancers, has been performing professionally since he was six. Er, shouldn't he be at school? Sanchez is quick to reassure us that his education will not be neglected: ``Both his parents are coming to London. Nino has a study programme devised by his teachers. He's going to be out of school for five weeks but we're going to make sure he does his homework''. But as far as his stage work goes, surely there are some things that only age can teach? Can junior flamenco ever approximate the passions of the mature article? Flamenco is about passion, not merely sexual passion (it is a filthy Anglo-Saxon habit always to equate passion with sex), but the artful synthesis of pain and patriotism so necessary for the full flamenco frown. Francisco Sanchez thinks chronological age is irrelevant - age has nothing to do with power: ``A great artist is a great artist from an early age and he's going to have that strength even when he's young. There are artists who will never know such power even when they're old.''

Campanas Flamencas is at the Peacock Theatre, London WC2 (0171-314 8800), 3 Feb-8 March

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