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Paco Peña: ‘You take your chances, sometimes you make mistakes - that is how you learn flamenco’

PUBLISHED: 19:00 09 August 2017

Paco Pena in Flamencura at Sadler's Wells. Picture: Jeremy Toth

Paco Pena in Flamencura at Sadler's Wells. Picture: Jeremy Toth

Jeremy Toth

With a career spanning more than four decades, Peña has toured the world with the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company, now bringing his production of Flamencura back to Sadler’s Wells

Flamencura at Sadler's Wells. Picture: Jeremy TothFlamencura at Sadler's Wells. Picture: Jeremy Toth

There’s nothing quite like seeing a performer lose themselves on the stage, to be so engrossed in their art that it consumes them and their audience.

It’s not a very British concept – traditionally, we’d prefer to sit quietly in our rows, enjoy a concerto and applaud politely at the end.

But that’s not what flamenco is about. There’s a certain emotion – yes, you can enjoy from the comfort of theatre seats but, when it is done right, it will hit you in the gut and form a true connection.

Paco Peña – guitarist, composer, dramatist and producer – says that it’s not just about the music or the dance, it’s a feeling that comes from years of work and immersion:

“When you have it, when it shows in your posture, in your attitude, in your professionalism, when you really understand the tools of flamenco, you have Flamencura.

“To achieve that, there is a set of supposed talents but also cultural familiarity, a deep commitment with the culture, with the music. When you deal with those ingredients, you try to achieve the ultimate expression, communication with the audience and those tools that you use is what you call Flamencura.”

With a career spanning more than four decades, Peña has toured the world with the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company, now bringing his production of Flamencura back to Sadler’s Wells. It received its UK premiere in the summer of 2015 and was met with rave reviews. With choreography from Fernando Romero and principal dancer Ángel Múñoz in the fore, the show presents ten dance pieces, a combination of solos, duets, ensembles and musical numbers. In creating this show, he wanted to return to flamenco’s essential core and has stripped away theatricality and narrative to reveal its heart.

“The show is prepared in a way that I expose everybody,” he says. “I leave them to do what they can with the patterns that we provide, in terms of them searching as much as possible within themselves to really move the audience, to convince the audience, to communicate with the audience very deeply to achieve that great thing.”

Peña is regarded as one of the world’s leading flamenco performers, known as well for remaining true to the traditions and folklore of the art form as for expanding its horizons. This show is no exception.

“It’s a little bit of an adventure but I am incorporating in the show a blues singer,” he says excitedly. “I do that out of utter respect for the culture, a culture that I’m not so familiar with. But I recognise the pathos and the depth of that type of musical culture as well as I recognise it in flamenco.”

Peña hails from Andalucia, the birthplace of flamenco and recalls that there was never a time when it wasn’t a part of his life.

“I come from Cordoba,” he says. “I lived among so many people in the same house, many families all contributing what they can. That is flamenco, it was all around me. That is how you learn, you join in with the community and you learn from the older people or the younger people, it doesn’t matter, you just join in. You take your chances, sometimes you make mistakes but that is the way you develop Flamencura.

“I am from a family of nine children: Seven were girls and I had one brother who was older than me. He played the guitar before me so very young I tried to do what my big brother did. Very young I discovered that it was something that fascinated me so I took it seriously throughout my life.”

Flamencura is showing at Sadler’s Wells until August 12, matinee performances 2:30pm and evening performances 7:30pm. Tickets: £12-£40 from sadlerswells.com

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