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A scene from Flamencura at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Jeremy Toth
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Stripped to the bone and shorn of all theatrical trappings, Paco Pena’s latest flamenco show attempts to unpack the meaning of duende, the mysterious alchemical connection between art and artist, artist and spectator. Solos and ensemble sequences flow uninterrupted across the stage like a dark river as Pena and his two guitarists spin an intricate web of sound and the singers urge the dancers to delve deep inside themselves.

The first solea from Carmen ‘La Talegona’ is castanet-driven, her feet a blur of movement as she loosens the formal structure of the show to allow spontaneity to breathe.

As the simple white screen behind the performers changes colour from orange to red to blue and finally to black, the dances become more reflective, earthier and atmospheric.

A duet between Angel Munoz and Carmen ‘La Talegona’ with a black cloth is ripe with death imagery, a kind of flamenco version of Le Jeune Homme et La Mort; an ensemble piece in black to a slave song from the American South is shadow flamenco, drawing a connection between the roots music of two different countries.

In a series of magnificent dresses, Charo Espino employs a shameless sensuality, flirting with the audience as her incredible arms twist and turn like cobras in a snake charmer’s basket. ‘La Talegona’s shawl dance is a thing of consummate grace. Finally, Munoz nails it with an astonishing solea that sees him tearing up the stage like a human machine gun.

Pena and his musicians play throughout as if touched by the gods of flamenco.

Immaculate and utterly enthralling.

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Paco Pena's exploration of flamenco's secret heart is close to perfection