Courtly Juana Amaya and the 20-year-old Farruquito delighted and surprised at the Flamenco Festival’s “Por Derecho” program (City Center, February 2), as their unadorned flamenco pulsed with joy. Popular notions of the form rely on brooding, passionate images of beings suffused with sorrow and the burdens of a demanding duende. Such a narrow reading would have been misplaced, for the duende on display that night was athletic and celebratory.
That may be because the gifted principals—including Farruco, Farruquito’s 15-year-old brother, and Pepe Torres—are young, as enthralled by their moves as we are. They strutted, stamped, dazzled, and swooped, combining explosive footwork with hand gestures, leaps, and pirouettes, urged on by four cantaores and four musicians. Flamboyant and crammed with daring, the evening often veered close to showboating, but if it did, it was as enjoyable as it was inspiring. Amaya, with her practiced aplomb (and at times a look of astonishment, as though she had accomplished something serendipitous), served as the center around which the two brothers moved in bravura displays of their considerable skills.
Farruquito held back early on, allowing Farruco room to exhibit, especially in a guajira, an exuberant, crowd-pleasing cockiness. In the second half Farruquito cut loose, combining a fierce demeanor with rapid-fire but finely etched steps, the most astonishing moment coming in a soleá when he dropped to the floor on both knees and came back up so quickly it seemed a mirage. Two of the most charming numbers came from unexpected quarters. The percussionist Manuel Soler pleased with a wonderful unscripted solo, as meditative as the brothers were expansive. And the encore, with singer La Tana and one guitarist each executing some steps, resonated with verve and humor—perfect grace notes on which to end the fiesta. —Luis H. Francia
Bill Shannon (a/k/a “CrutchMaster”) suffers from a degenerative disease of his hip joints. Brave and ingenious, he’s turned his condition into a means of making a spectacle of himself. He performs on the street and in theaters, locomoting on crutches and a skateboard. His moves, though limited, provide an engaging contrast between percussive pacing and lyrical gliding, and they’re spiced with sleight-of-hand feats and illusions of flying as his legs swing free. Making a solo contribution to a varied program, he’s compelling. But when he takes on a full concert, as he did at DTW in January with the Step Fenz Crew of break-dancers, the challenge is more than his quirky personal art can sustain. He resorts to dopey skits about the dark mean streets, the hospital, war—sites in which even the able-bodied are potential victims. —Tobi Tobias