Farruquito may be making his regional debut in the UAE this week, but for the flamenco sensation, the shows will feel like home.
The Spanish dancer hits the Dubai Opera stage on Thursday and Friday with a show embodying a three-decade career steeped in tradition.
The opportunity to share his story in the Arab world, he tells The National, will mark a hugely satisfying achievement.
“It is something that has been on my mind, and members of the band, that when we come to Dubai we will see a lot of connection between cultures,” he says.
“Flamenco came from the South of Spain and even though it has fortunately expanded all around the world, that link to the South of Spain remains and that region is historically and culturally close to the Arab world. Playing in Dubai will feel like being with family.”
That enthusiasm has been reciprocated with demand necessitating a second show at Dubai Opera.
Art of communication
By the time he arrives in the UAE, Farruquito – born Juan Fernandez – will be a well oiled machine, as the shows come on the back of an extensive Spanish tour.
With the pandemic halting most international tours in Spain, he explains how local flamenco artist aided the cultural sector’s revival in the face of the pandemic.
It is just as well, Farruquito says, as flamenco never really translated on Zoom. “It was emotionally a very difficult time for me because flamenco without an audience becomes sport, not art,” he says.
“We need the feedback and energy of the crowd. When you don’t receive that your mind starts to come up with negative thoughts and you wonder if they are not connecting with the work. This is because flamenco is communication and without the audience it is like talking to a wall.”
A descendent of legends
Farruquito, 39, is carrying on a conversation that began more than a century ago.
Born in Seville to flamenco artists, singer El Moreno and dancer La Farruca, he is also the grandson of El Farruco, considered one of the art form's greatest dancers.
It was with his grandfather that Farruquito made his debut as a 5-year-old in New York's Broadway district, before hitting his stride in the documentary Flamenco.
Released in 1995 and directed by Carlos Sauras (Le Caza) the film features electrifying scenes where Farruquito goes toe to toe with El Farruco, thus symbolising the passing of the torch from master to student.
Retaining the fluid grace and tradition of gypsy culture, Farruquito added a theatrical edge to his oeuvre that allowed him to sell out shows from Broadway to Tokyo.
A lot like jazz
While denying suggestions he was modernising flamenco to suit a mass audience, Farruquito is excited at the prospects a global audience brings to the craft.
“It is not necessary for it to be to be one thing or the other, modern or classical flamenco, it is about being in that moment and delivering something with all your heart in it. That is when the audience feels the connection,” he says.
“What I feel on stage, from joy to sadness, the audience receives that. That’s what I am always aiming for, to share that realness and truth of the moment.”
More than dazzling technicality of the footwork and vocals, it is that visceral quality Farruquito believes is at the heart of flamenco’s growing appeal.
“You don’t need to go to this show in Dubai, for example, with a preconceived expectation or searching for a certain thing,” he says.
“In a way, it is similar to jazz music. There is a certain structure to the show but there is a flexibility in that if I get inspired by something during the show, I can go explore that aspect bit more.
“While everything flows together, it does so in a very real manner and in the moment. This is where the magic lies for me.”
As for the future of flamenco, Farruquito is confident the art form will grow larger without losing its integrity.
“It is getting bigger and I now see some aspects of it being stylised, like when people say this particular work has ‘a flamenco style,’ and this is a normal kind of process,” he says.
“Flamenco doesn’t have to be from a long time ago or that it has to echo what happens today or tomorrow. Its essence is persevered if it is done with conviction. The audience doesn’t have to always understand it because if they feel it, then that’s true flamenco.”
Farruquito performs on September 30 and October 1 at Dubai Opera. Show begins at 8pm; tickets from Dh250 at dubaiopera.com