Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company in Flamencura Photo Jeremy Toth

Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company in
Photo Jeremy Toth

Sadler’s Wells, London
June 26, 2015

Stuart Sweeney

Since moving to London in the late 1960s, the city has been the base for Paco Peña’s wide range of performances. Now 73, his new show shows his great talents as guitarist and producer remain undiminished.

Flamencura employs the simplest stage layout with only the skill of the performers to enthral us, aided by atmospheric lighting.  The ten sections of the evening present a range of flamenco experiences with the three elements, guitar, singing and dance all to the fore.

One reason for the show’s success is the variety of styles offered by the three dancers, each excelling in different aspects.  Charo Espino makes an immediate impression with her serpentine hands and arms carving supple shapes in the air.  For solos, her supple back enables her to create statuesque poses between the flurries of movement.  The theme of the show is duende which, we are told, flamenco artists are loathe to talk about, but the darkness of love is a key ingredient. However, Espino enjoys dancing so much there is a compelling gaiety about much of her performance. At one stage she even jokes with us emphasising the sensual aspect of the form, stroking her fine bottom.  

Carmen ‘La Telegona’ is at her best in the solo dances where her machine gun rapid footwork is remarkable. Her expressive interpretations of the angry and desperate love songs are marked by her rapid turns and twists. In a second half scarf dance she sometimes creating shapes like a bird’s wings, sometimes like a flock of starlings.

Angel Muñoz has danced with Paco Peña for many years. Sixteen years ago I wrote: “He’s blazingly fast, precise, expressive and his spins would put an ice-skater to shame.” His final solo here showed that he has lost none of his glorious skills, with his head still and his body centred throughout the most complex footwork.

Jose Angel Carmona’s voice is less harsh then many flamenco singers but retains the essential expressive quality. Immaculada Rivera’s voice can transform from sweet to a rasp and booms out to reveal love’s dark corners. As a curtain encore she also gets to dance for us, showing that flamenco is not just for the young and svelte. Vimala Rowe is a soul and jazz singer and Peña writes in the programme that he wanted to establish a link between the two styles as she sang solo and in duet. She has a lovely voice, but her alternative rhythmic schema didn’t work entirely with the flamenco.

Providing the spine of the Flamencura is Paco Peña with his fine guitar playing. Even in the slow tunes he provides elaborate ornamentation demanding the fleetest finger work and his ability to play with rhythm is undiminished. Director, Jude Kelly, has worked with Peña before, but previously the sets and lighting sometimes diminished the traditional virtues of the artists. In Flamencura she has adopted a ‘less is more’ philosophy that works a treat. The audience awarded the performers a well-deserved standing ovation.