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Jessica Abrams
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El Portal Theatre
United States
Greater Los Angeles
North Hollywood, CA

La Farruca and Flamenco Find Fans in the City of Angels

by Jessica Abrams
March 21, 2018
El Portal Theatre
5269 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA
Living in a Los Angeles of screenwriters in coffee shops and headshot trucks and celebrity selfies at popular lunch spots where the waiters are actors and the food marginal, it always comes as a surprise – and a novelty – to venture into cultural enclaves that celebrate another art besides film and television. One such enclave, flamenco dance, consists of a similar level of fandom as a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but with more heart. In fact, flamenco – music and dance and the spectacle as whole – is nothing but heart.

The second night of the Los Angeles Flamenco Festival, held at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood Friday, March 16th, featured dancers Rosario Montoya, also known as “La Farruca” and Natalia Del Mar, “La Serrata”. Pascual Gallo on guitar and singers Juanillor de Jerez and El Quini remained on stage for the duration of the performance, providing, in true Flamenco Puro fashion, more than just accompaniment to the dancers but an entire emotional sounding board, as it were.

La Serrata came on stage first. Her carriage, while still maintaining the flamenco bearing of chest and ribs high and arms bent slightly at the elbows, nonetheless belied hints of her ballet training. Her beautiful face and slightly inwardly-focused demeanor added an air of mystery to her laments, broken occasionally by her tapping her heart and stretching out her arms to the audience as if to encourage the crowd’s participation, and to say, “I may be young, but I, too, hold pain in my heart”.

A note about Flamenco dance. Flamenco fans tend to divide their loyalty between “Flamenco Puro” and “Classical Flamenco”. The former tends to feature one dancer at a time on stage, with a more traditional port de bras – that is, arms bent slightly at the elbow; while the latter is flamenco as performed by most companies and tends to exhibit characteristics derived from traditional Spanish dance as well as some ballet influences.

La Farrucca exemplified Flamenco Puro at its most dazzling. Fire to La Serrata’s ice, a woman of experience to La Serrata’s maiden, she ignited the stage with a presence and a passion that had the audience clapping wildly (there go those devoted Flamenco fans again). A national treasure, La Farruca comes from a family of Flamenco artists in Spain and has garnered a somewhat legendary status within the community. Clad in a blue dress short enough to show off her powerful legs, La Farruca’s passion occasionally had her legs wiggling à la an Irish jig when her hands weren’t slapping them wildly.

La Serrata took to the stage again, in a long gown of brown velvet with a lace bodice. At times her arms formed a circle, pantomiming a baby being held in them. Given the duality of the younger maiden versus the older one, it makes sense that the story may have allowed for a baby—and the death of said baby as pantomimed by laying it on the ground—lamented by La Serrata as she occasionally reached her arms to the audience for – what” – support? Understanding?

Enter La Farruca, now clad in a red dress and red shoes, to mourn the death of the baby in her own way – with an anger at the gods, and an elegiac passion of someone who has seen it all and was hoping to never see it again. Her deliberate, syncopated footwork hinted at a hesitancy and a slow-footed despair. She covered her head in a black scarf before retreating off stage.

Adding a narrative to a dance of pure heart and soul may be my own very American way of navigating the raw, unadulterated emotion because there was nothing in the program to hint at a story. It may also be my own Los Angeles experience of the never-ending telling of stories, be they at a computer in a coffee shop or at a bar as told by a hardened hack who has seen it all. Either way, for me it provided a backdrop for this dance of two women: one young and still growing emotionally; the other, more experienced and with wisdom to share. And, to continue the juxtaposing of the two worlds, mine and Flamenco, perhaps mine could use a few more La Farrucas to add something not often seen in our narratives: a beauty, a power, a gutsiness that comes from having been around the block a few times.

Photo © & courtesy of Chuci Guerra

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

Photo © & courtesy of Alfred Mauve

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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