Buen Arate at Sadler’s Wells

Farruquito and Farruco, not my photo but by Sophie Mühlenburg

Farruquito, not my photo but by and (c) Sophie Mühlenburg. From some other performance, not this one.

Playing for two nights, Farruquito (Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya)’s Buen Arate delivers a supremely woven combination of authentically visceral music and sharp collaborative choreography with all the depth, expression and humour that we have come to expect.

Along with his brother Farruco (Antonio Fernández Montoya),  cantaores and musicians, he treats us to a genuine expression of traditional flamenco in such a way that it feels like a natural celebration that could easily happen in private, among respected family and friends. That is precisely what was intended, as the programme says “Farruquito runs to meet his people, those who existed before him and those who he decides to learn from again and again.”

Highlights include the beautiful introductory chords of the guitars, the Jaleos, stunning toque, the way that the two brothers increase the pace of the seguirilla in their own styles while incorporating similar moves and the pure joy of the fin de fiesta. Farruquito really makes the audience work before performing the latter and the only thing that left me unsatisfied was the brevity of Román Vicenti’s solo.

A constant thread through this beautifully created and well-rehearsed performance is the complimentary styles of the two dancers. Equally expressive and sharing common elements, Farruquito’s rapid-fire light expressive zapateado and cheeky upright strutting contrasts well with Farruco’s more grounded expressions which often end with wider poses that a Vogue dancer would emulate with pride.

The programme’s explanation of the meaning of ‘Buen Arate’ is that while it literally means ‘good blood’, it is more an expression of the mood; a kind of aura or karma. My own dictionary takes Arate further, explaining that it is a “persona mañosa y con gracia” (someone tricky, mischievous and who makes you smile or laugh) and that the person is also liberal minded or humorous. This wider explanation suits the performance far better, since there were moments of great humour, and the cantaoras’ words were (in addition to being very jondo) sometimes scolding and sometimes little comments made for fun.


I wasn’t there but my understanding is that Farruco was slightly off form on the second night..