Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Dancer El Farruco

Flamenco Dancer El Farruco – Reflections on a Golden Era

Flamenco’s truly great artists occupy a strange position.  There are numerous others who may be excellent or brilliant or wonderful.  But there are a few singers, a few dancers, a few guitarists who simply stand apart.  Underline “a few” — rarely have more than a dozen or so been alive at any one time, and today one would be hard pressed to name half that number.

Farruco was always, always placed in this category.  Dancers, asked about other dancers, almost invariably began by putting him aside as a given, as something utterly unique.  (Someone once asked Miss Peggy Lee who she would consider the finest singer in her profession.  Her answer:  “Oh, you mean besides Ella?”  This graceful reply connoted the same stand-alone stature that Farruco had in flamenco dance.)

(Less gracefully, I’ve seen several cases where artists were asked to name their favorite dancers and stopped dead at Farruco.  Juan Habichuela, as one example, answered, “I saw Farruco dance.”  The interviewer pressed for other names.  Habichuela replied, “I saw Farruco dance.”  The interviewer said, “Yes, but…”  Habichuela responded, “I saw Farruco dance.”  The interviewer finally got the point.)

While I rarely abase myself for dancers, preferring to save my abject humiliation for singers and guitarists, I tried to see Farruco whenever possible.  In 1987, he was in New York for the remarkable Flamenco Puro production that I saw many times.  Before that, though, I had the privilege of seeing him often in Seville in the mid-sixties.  A fellow American was involved in the drug trade — he subsequently spent several years in a cold cell in the Pyrenees.  I’m hazy on the details, but this relatively novel product-testing opportunity seemed to attract some flamenco people including Farruco, who may then have been part of Los Bolecos at Cortijo El Guajiro.

The happy result for me was to see him dance often at what may have been maximum energy.  There was nothing like him in the world.  He had indeed mastered the art of stillness, and combined it with outbursts of such miraculous power and incomparable art that it became all the harder for me to watch other flamenco dancers.

Here’s the entry from the two-volume Diccionario Enciclopédico Ilustrado del Flamenco, by José Blas Vega and Manuel Ríos Ruíz, Cinterco, Madrid, 1988, long out of print:

“El Farruco:  Artistic name of Antonio Montoya Flores.  Born 1936 in Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid).  Dancer.  Sobrino nieto (grand-nephew?) of [the seminal, legendary flamenco guitarist] Ramón Montoya, son of La Farruca and father of El Farruquito and Las Farrucas.  He debuted in the productions titled “Galas Juveniles” and “Los Chavalillos de Espana“, continuing in the company of Lola Flores and Manolo Caracol, with whom he toured all of Spain, alternating this with appearances in tablaos, among them El Guajiro in Seville.  In 1955, he joined the troupe of Pilar López, touring many countries with special success in the Palace in London, where there were 18 curtain calls from a wildly enthusiastic audience.

From there he went to the tablao Corral de la Morería in 1957, and then to El Duende in Madrid in 1961.  In 1962, he was invited to dance at the Córdoba Festival.  He joined the José Greco Dance Company in 1965, traveling to several continents, and later joined Matilde Coral and Rafael El Negro in Seville’s tablaos including La Cochera, and in Madrid’s Café de Chinitas and Los Canasteros in 1970 and ’71; he also became a principal attraction in the many local Festivales that were being initiated in Andalucía.

Following the death of his son Farruquito in a traffic accident [at age 18, in 1974], he retired until reappearing in 1978 with his daughters Las Farrucas in the Seville tablao La Trocha.  Among his most important later appearances stand out his participation in the III Bienal de Arte Flamenco of Seville in 1984, and “Flamenco Puro”, presented in New York in 1986 and ’87, together with El Guito, Fernanda de Utrera, Juan Habichuela, El Chocolate, Adela Chaqueta and Manuela Carrasco.  Lately, he has alternated his appearances with teaching his art.

Among the critical appraisals of his work we’ve selected the following:

José Luís Ortiz Nuevo writes:  “When Antonio El Farruco walks onstage, the personal dimension is revealed (el personal se le rinde) simply on seeing him, and all remain enraptured by the contemplation of this living marvel.  His life has been colored by tragedy, and his dance by genius.  His eyes are those of a restless child, and his body delineates the exact figure of the rhythms of flamenco.  And he still reveals the agility it takes for those sublime movements that create the sound of the bulerías.  And the sheer majesty that is displayed in his simply walking to take his place in preparing to dance.”

Manuel Ríos Ruíz:  “Farruco’s dance is based on the posture and the elasticity of movement without which flamenco style is disfigured.  His despantes and replantes are motivated and developed by a sense of the deep aesthetic understood through arrogance; and, beyond grace, he offers a racial plasticity in which movement is sparse but there is a surprising beauty that is electrifying.  Farruco is courage itself dancing.”

José Blas Vega:  “El Farruco remains an authentic figure of dance today; but to have seen him when he was in possession of all his faculties was to see interpretations so impregnated with power and genius that it was shocking to witness.”

End of entry.

In humble wonder,

Brook Zern


May 5, 2014   No Comments