Of Man and Manton
The Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival Gala attracts a different audience to any of the other productions. Those unsure of whether they will like a particular artist choose it to hedge their bets, this year more than most as the publicity blurb declares that it is composed of prize winning artists from La Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla. This means that fewer people jaleo and the rest of the audience appreciates the performance in silence, which changes the atmosphere in the auditorium and must affect the performers too.
While it didn’t spoil an appreciation of the consummate excellence of the artists on the stage, it was unfortunate that this production had a few little niggles. Juan Peña Fernández (also known as Juan Peña El Lebrijano or just El Lebrijano meaning the man from Lebrija) has a powerful and heart-searingly expressive voice that belies his 75 years but a sudden change in volume of the accompanying guitar and palmas was a bit discombobulating, the musicians clearly were getting more and more wound up as their set went on, and eventually even great man himself said something that we couldn’t hear.
Ballet Flamenco de Andalusia’s dance was wonderful but rather short. I liked how the different dancers, both male and female, exchanged and worked with the manton and was fair drooling at the sensual masculinity with which the tall guest with them wielded his.
Farruquito was on form and once again played the audience well. He danced with wonderful variations in cadence, treating the us to his trademark walk and sustained virtuosic zapateado so fast that all we could see was a semi-circular blur.
The respect (and hierarchy) between performers that we all know to exist showed clearly in the Fin de Fiesta. This wasn’t as much fun as usual, while the main proponents gave everything, some of Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia clearly just wanted to leave.