BWW Review: Paco Pena's FLAMENCURA at Sadler's Wells
A flamenco show is always easy to spot when you take your seat at the theatre. The stage is stark except for a few unevenly placed chairs. The performers are left to do all the work here and that includes 75-year-old Paco Peña, along with his small but effective ensemble of singers, dancers and musicians.
Flamencura was first seen by London audiences in 2015 featuring a slightly alternative cast of dancers to now. The non-narrative line-up of ten key numbers has been fine-tuned and polished, allowing for maximum impact.
The two female dancers are the stars of the cast, their contrasting styles both alluring and engaging as they undulate against the traditional wailings of the two singers, Inmaculada Rivero and Jose Angel Carmona. Whether the vocals are appealing to you will be down to personal taste.
Yolanda Osuna is a striking, raven-haired siren who thrills the audience with the commanding, strong staccato stomping of her feet. She is endlessly powerful and owns her opening Soleá (a prolific flamenco number) solo in captivating style.
She is immediately followed by the Charo Espino's Tangos de Málaga. A far more sensual performance full of grace and beautifully expressive arms. She's flirtatious and daring, exuding confidence. She has been dancing with Paco Peña Dance Company for over 20 years.
These performances are interspersed with musical interludes, including one from Peña himself. The backdrop takes on a sky-blue colour as he effortless picks away at his guitar. He is an understated performer but still easily engages his captive audience, transporting them to warmer climes.
The stripped-back staging is all part of the signature flamenco style. The relaxed style sees the musicians and singers sit informally together, and some sections have a more improvised quality to them, adding to the authentic feel.
Act One climaxes in a dramatic and explosively choreographed trio featuring the two ladies accompanied by Angel Muñoz with Petenera, a rarely staged dance that carries a legend of an evil woman who leads men to their death. It features stunning, sweeping purple flamenco skirts; the ladies are wonderfully seductive, leading their victim to his sinister ending as they take on a new persona.
Act Two marks a change in style as Peña merges the more soulful vocals of Vimala Rowe, a songstress from the southern United States, and Carmona's more traditionally Spanish vocal warblings.
The highlight of the second act is the opportunity for Angel Muñoz to perform an extended solo (his own Soleá) full of extraordinarily nuanced, rhythmical movements and footwork, her steams across the stage, delivering one climactic moment after another. It's exhausting, and exhilarating to watch.
Flamencura is punctuated with many memorable moments. Some will appreciate the minimal staging, authentic vocals and conventional costuming, and some will not. It will all be a matter of taste, however no one can deny the dancing is second to none.
Image credit: Jeremy Roth