Text and photos: Estela Zatania
Friday, December 6th, 2013. 9:00pm. Teatro Isabel la Católica, Granada
The 14th series Encuentros Flamencos de Granada was celebrated last week, coinciding as always with the long holiday weekend. The first four days offered an assortment of classic flamenco dance from the Farruco family, the Maya Heredia Vargas of Granada and young Karime Amaya, great-niece of Carmen Amaya who is also associated with Granada. The last three days seemed glued on so as to flesh out the program and included the very popular Miguel Poveda, young singer Argentina and a competition of rociero-style choral groups Sunday midday; it was an odd potpourri that left audiences and the media somewhat perplexed.
Nevertheless, there was art. I attended the Friday show, the only one programmed for two days. It was like old times. Just as in Camarón’s heyday when his fans worshipped him so totally, his appearance on stage would always trigger emotional shouting and tears, and the air would be full of excitement. That’s just how it was when suddenly, out of the dark, from the rear of the theater, illuminated by a dramatic spotlight, to the beat of aggressive percussion, Juan Andrés Maya and Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya “Farruquito” came down the central aisle, half-running like triumphant athletes. Maya, the idol of Granada’s flamenco fans, and Farruquito, maximum dance star, and the fans of both were doubly enthralled.
Few dancers from outside the family have dared to take on the galactic Farruquito. At one time Pepe Torres did it with his calm elegance, with no intention of competing. In Granada, Juan Andrés defended his own perspective, racial at the same time as personal, maintaining a certain artistic distance from Farruquito: except for the brief introduction, and a brief closing fiesta, each dancer displayed his offering independently with his own group of musicians. In fact, it confused many people when at the end of the first half Juan Andrés accepted a bouquet of flowers before Farruquito had barely danced.
We would all have liked to see more interaction between the two, not as a couple, but more of an artistic dialogue. Perhaps the title “Improvisao” reflects the absence of structure in a presentation that was offered “as is”: first class dancing by two artists, each one traveling his own path. The presentation was siguiriyas, but the form is the least of it because everything is a pretext to explore the rhythms of flamenco, seeking out nooks and crannies where emotion is lurking and time seems to stop while art takes place.
Jerónimo Maya on guitar, thirty years ago a child prodigy, now playing with all the dignity of his guitar-playing family, and the knowledge acquired since then; it was an unexpected pleasure to find him here playing for Juan Andrés who danced a splendid taranto with tangos ending, only logical for someone from Granada. Manuel Tañé sang for him, a young man from Jerez who just gets better and better.
In the second part, the voices of Pepe de Pura, Mari Vizárraga, Antonio Villar and Fabiola, the guitars of Román Vicenti and Juan Requena and the percussion of Ané Carrasco gave the backup Farruquito needed to construct his electrifying way of interpreting flamenco that always whips up the audience to a frenzy.
A high-voltage fiesta finale with all the artists on stage left you wondering why we so often settle for pre-packaged, flash-frozen or mediocre flamenco presented as “evolution”.