By Alastair Macaulay
MARCH 11, 2016
The flamenco dancer Farruquito returned to New York on Thursday, after an absence of 13 years, like a king reclaiming his realm. Within moments, he proved that he is one of today’s superlative dance artists. He’s slender, handsome, taut; he transfixed attention just by standing, walking, raising an arm. In simple passages, he demonstrated stunning effects of contrast. Taking the City Center stage three times during a 90-minute program shared with the guest dancer Gema Moneo and seven musicians, he built each solo to peaks of rich rhythmic brilliance.
When he spoke a few words, in English, after the performance, he sensibly made no reference to the factors that had kept him away — a prison sentence for manslaughter in connection with a fatal hit-and-run and subsequent visa problems. He spoke only of following the advice of his celebrated flamenco grandfather, El Farruco, to fly while staying true to tradition; and he expressed his hope of returning soon. There are many exponents today of what’s called flamenco nuevo, who add novel features of style, dress, music and rhythm. Farruquito — elegant in formal suits and cravats — is not one of those.
However many things he can do, he always suggests that he has even more ways of delivering them. Either in the simplest or the most elaborate sequences, he has a range of pressures, mastery of line, miraculous coordination. I’ve never seen any flamenco dancer with such dynamic variety, or one who so connects the macro to the micro. The most casual flourish of a heel is also part of a long, complex phrase; the slightest turn of a wrist becomes part of a complex linear meeting of arcs that work from head to toe.
Above all, his legs and feet display endless resources. He made his third entrance in profile, slowly walking in a single, gliding, legato current so smooth and strong that there was never a moment when you could spot a transfer of weight. At other moments, at his most playful, he would rock teasingly from foot to foot. The drama he makes by alternating open and closed positions was terrific. Amid sequences of rapidly percussive footwork, he found time to sweep either foot in a sideways arc, as if flourishing a cape. Within a solo, even within a phrase, his energy would pour forth down into his insteps or up into the air or both at the same time.
At several points, he swept blithely and rapidly around the stage: Without a single jump, he seemed an eagle in flight. In one solo, he stole forward in two prolonged steps and then immediately bounced backward in two effortless pounces. He has surprise, fantasy, glamour, pride, glee. Many flamenco dancers draw their arms up proudly to create a single arch, like that of a bow or a matador. But the geometries of Farruquito’s dancing start from that arch, multiplying to become myriad and gorgeous.
Yet this limitless stylist does have limits. His program is called “Improvisao”; but, even though his solos are doubtless different every night, they seem like acts of self-proclamation more than self-discovery. He was too quick to demand the audience’s adoration with a gesture — and did so too often. We soon got to know his way of lifting his head, breathing deep and tapping his heart to show us how hard he had worked for us.
This performance began New York’s 10-day Flamenco Festival 2016 (nycitycenter.org). Farruquito’s colleagues — four vocalists (Encarna Anillo, Pepe de Pura, Mari Vizarraga, Antonio Zuniga), José Gálvez and Román Vicenti (toque and guitar), and the percussionist El Polito — all enlarged the world of flamenco. One brief vocal quartet was unlike anything I’ve heard, its layers and harmonies apparently suspending time; a solo by Mr. Vicentiwas poetically reflective. Ms. Moneo’s dancing, often exemplifying the same crossed-over legwork as Farruquito, was marvelously robust, with intoxicating touches of self-contradiction, as if expressing conflicting impulses.
Farruquito dances as if he has every answer at his fingertips. The charm of Ms. Moneo’s and Mr. Vicenti’s solos, however, lay in how they kept asking questions.
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