Flamenco in London – Paco Peña’s show Patrias

Paco Peña opened his latest production Patrias in Sadlers Wells on Tuesday and just by chance I had the good fortune to attend the opening night. Paco Peña is based in London and brings together a talented range of flamenco dancers and musicians. The male dancer, Angel Muñoz is based in Córdoba and has been dancing with the company for 16 years. Not only a very exciting dancer, Angel is also an excellent teacher who visits London regularly for workshop intensives and teaches every year at the Jerez Flamenco festival. I remember being electrified by Angel’s dancing in his first show with Paco Peña in Edinburgh in around 2001 and whilst more self assured and more lyrical than fiery now, he is nevertheless a wonderful performer who can command his own show – such as Blanco y Negro which he brought to Sadlers Wells and performed at the Jerez Festival in 2015. He is partnered by female dancer and choreographer Mayte Bajo.

Patrias is an important word in the Spanish language and means ‘the country’, but within it are concepts deeper and more meaningful to Spaniards. This piece is a homage to the poet García Lorca who was executed in the Spanish civil war and it is the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. It is a darker piece than Paco Peña has shown before, the artists are all dressed in ochres, and greys in the style of peasant clothes. There are quotes from the poetry of Lorca, Pablo Neruda and Antonio Machado with the spoken voice of General Franco and photographs projected onto the back screen. One of the cast reads both Spanish and English pieces in between the music. The dances are predominantly folklórico – Verdiales and Fandangos – rather than the more fiery or showy flamenco dances. There are some heart rending songs which suit the plaintif tone of singer Gema Jiménez.

The sense is of saying ‘goodbye’ and love and loss of loved ones. Of the attack on learning and community, but not of the direct fighting of war, but the sense of coping as a community. For me the sentiment was more about poignancy and sadness and the difficulty of standing up to the fascista element.

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