Paco Pena

Enmore Theatre, October 7


Paco Pena and Angel Munoz. Photo supplied.

Were flamenco dance a mating ritual it would surely be the world’s most elaborate, seeing off an exotic bird or two. Here the dancers were Charo Espino and Angel Munoz, who each had their particular strengths. With Espino it was the arching shapes and jutting angles of her arms and body, and the graceful curlicues created by wrists and fingers. With Munoz it was his precision, drama, rhythmic invention and sheer foot speed. He could tap out a pianissimo roll that was like tearing tissue paper, his heels a blur and his control complete.

Yet sometimes there was a sense of Paco Pena’s seven-member company providing a flamenco-lite show, in that the overwhelming potency of which the idiom is capable was only intermittently present. Primarily this intensity came from Munoz and from singer Bernardo Miranda, whose voice was not as smoky-thick as some flamenco vocalists, but who could still impale you on a note and then twist microtones into the wound.

Pena, now a venerable 74, exuded benignity and certainly could not be accused of hogging the limelight. Perhaps that was wise, because his one piece of solo guitar was riddled with imperfections of articulation, even if one could still enjoy his round tone, innate musicality and understated sense of drama.

His co-guitarists, Rafael Montilla Recio and Francisco Javier Arriaga Hurtado, offered both flare and competence, if not the incendiary impact of which the instrument is capable – the sort of impact present in Munoz’s heels or Miranda’s larynx. Nor did the guitarists collectively and consistently offer the ultimate exactitude that one might expect at this level. That, however, was provided by percussionist Ignacio Maria Collado Lopez, who, beyond playing cajon, combined with Munoz in providing high-calibre palmas (clapping).

In the second half Espino played coquettish castanets against Pena’s guitar, and the two dancers offered a choreographed love duet that had moments of passion, sensitivity and flamenco hauteur, but it also decidedly turned down the flame compared with their improvised work.