Duende is the dark heart of flamenco

Duende is the dark heart of flamenco

Robert Tanitch reviews Flamencura at Sadler’s Wells, London EC1

Paco Peña, the Spanish flamenco composer and guitarist, is regarded as one of the world’s foremost flamenco players.

I first saw Paco Peña and his Flamenco Dance Company in 1997.

Angel Muñoz in Flamencura

Angel Muñoz in Flamencura

The high spot then was Angel Muñoz’s solo. The 22-year-old virtuoso managed to do something new. It was not just the dazzling speed, the drumming of the heels, the scraping of the foot, the expressive use of the body, the strutting machismo, but the variety of the steps and the variety of the pace. He was just as electrifying in his slow movement.

20 years, on Angel Muñoz is still electrifying and once again I much enjoyed Peña’s guitar playing.

Flamencura relies heavily on spontaneity and improvisation.

There are three dancers, three singers and four musicians, three guitars and percussion. There are ten dance pieces, showcases for virtuosity, and technically and emotionally exciting to listen to and watch.

The stage is bare except for the chairs the artists sit on. Tom Wickens’s lighting is excellent.

Flamencura is the heart and soul of flamenco. The essential flamenco song is a cry in extremis and the songs explore the dark side of nature.

Immaculada Rivero and Jose Angel Carmona wail and the anguish and the pathos are there for all to hear. Vimala Rowe, a blues singer, brings a different sound.

Voice, guitar and dance are combined with great skill. The dance is intrinsic to the whole musical experience and there are solos, duets and trios by Angel Muñoz, Charo Espino and Yolanda Osuna, which constantly amaze.

The feet hammering away, the hand clapping, the proud carriage, the arched back, the swaying hips, the sharp turns of head and torso, the spins, the arm movements, the complex rhythms, the beauty of a swirling shawl, the precision, the passion, the attack, the sheer speed, the sheer stamina, all astound.Robert Tanitch Mature Times theatre reviewer

NB. Duende is not something you talk about, says Peña. Duende is indefinable and to try and define its heightened state of emotion would be to rob it of its power.

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