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Dance Review

Hotblooded Los Farruco makes a fiery step family

Spain's flamboyant flamenco brood sets Royce Hall throbbing for

March 05, 2009|Victoria Looseleaf

Raw and riveting, Los Farruco -- the famed Seville-based Gypsy flamenco family descended from legendary dancer El Farruco (Antonio Montoya Flores), who died in 1997 -- came to Royce Hall on Tuesday night and all but shredded the stage. The patriarch's lusty daughter La Farruca is a study in stealthy abandon. Her son, Farruco, matinee-idol-ready at 21, enthralls with his pounding feet. Then there's La Faraona, also an El Farruco daughter, and her son, Barullo, who at 19 is the baby -- and bullish to boot.

It must also be said that the clan's latest superstar (and El Farruco's oldest grandson), 26-year-old El Farruquito, was, alas, not dancing. Credited with conceiving and directing the show, this performer who's dazzled audiences since childhood recently served time in a Spanish prison for a hit-and-run killing.

But what would flamenco be without a little drama? Not to worry. Los Farruco, backed by two extraordinary guitarists and four scorching singers, offered more drama than a telenovela in a nearly two-hour intermissionless performance that throbbed with heart, soul and filigreed footwork. From the opening "Alegrias" to the final "Jaleos," the hotblooded dynasty turned Royce into an intimate tablao.

The cousins, ramrod straight and moving in unison, immediately captivated. Tossing off a jump here, a whipping turn there, they were soon joined by La Farruca, whose rapid stomping accelerated to seismic proportions. Dipping, swirling and swaying, she radiated majesty, her curling fingers irresistible.

In his solo, "Seguiriya," Barullo skittered about, accenting his machine-gun tapping with fist-pumping and ending with a flourish of dizzying spins.

If anatomy is destiny, La Faraona, with her barrel-shaped body, is fated to be the family's plus-size clown. Thrusting her chest out and hopping in jagged spurts, she performed a "Bulerias" as a duel with the statuesque singer Mara Rey. Unfortunately, despite beguiling wrist-flicking, La Faraona lost.

Flamboyant, haughty and decidedly swoon-worthy, Farruco let it rip in "Solea," proffering an astonishing array of beats. Even when he was tapping unaccompanied with one foot, the sound filled the hall like a monster percussionist's. Moving as if possessed, shaking his long hair free from its ponytail, Farruco became a quivering, ecstatic pillar of rhythmic marvels. But his drum-rolling footwork proved only a prelude to his tearing across the floor like a bullet train.

In her solo, "Romance," La Farruca, a slave to passion and pain, did a slow burn before scooting and sashaying as if her life depended on it. Her artistry was matched throughout by the musicians: Guitarists El Tuto and Antonio Rey provided electrifying licks in addition to backup, and the mournful wailings of El Rubio de Pruna, Antonio Zuniga and Pedro el Granaino cut to the bone.

In this era of high-tech everything, it's comforting to know that a handful of performers can still transport an audience to an emotional wonderland where awe and joy -- and fabulous hair -- abound.

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calendar@latimes.com

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