ArtsATL

Your Guide To The Arts In Atlanta

Farruquito is known for his explosive energy onstage — lightning-fast footwork, split-second spins and high leaps all accentuate his powerful presence. Yet his world-renowned success relies just as much on his sincere and raw personal expression onstage. To achieve that, the gitano (Spanish Roma) artist, also known as Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya, carefully constructs an environment within his company that resembles the flamenco family of his upbringing. His dancers describe the company as a space where each person is valued, and his company members have the freedom to be and express themselves as they are. Coupled with a relentless work ethic, Farruquito’s technique and fearlessness allow him to move as fiercely or delicately as any given moment may require.

This Saturday, February 16, Farruquito and his ensemble will appear at the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University with a new program, Smoldering Gypsy Flamenco.

Although Farruquito’s name is synonymous with tradition in flamenco, his work is as contemporary and forward-looking as ever. He believes tradition does not have to only look backwards, but rather, he draws from the past to experience the present more deeply. Farruquito puts his own mark on everything, and in this show, he intends to share that thrill of dancing among family with Atlanta’s strong flamenco community as well as audiences who might be new to the art form. In an interview with ARTS ATL, Farruquito explained why he believes this performance is his most personal work yet.

ARTS ATL: Can you share with us the inspiration for this particular show?

Farruquito: Right now, I am interested in doing a more structured performance, more choreographed, because, overall, I want to recover things — moments, scenes, emotions from when I began to dance up until now. I have even taken verses and steps and compositions that I did when I was young, simply to return to recreating those moments onstage and remember parts of myself and return to myself. I want to enjoy myself onstage.

ARTS ATL: What do you hope the audience will gain from your performance? How do you view the exchange of energy between the audience and the artists onstage?

Farruquito: That they enjoy it. It’s not necessary that they understand flamenco. The most important thing is that they can feel the emotions we express — nothing more. The energy the audience gives off is always important. But I don’t think about whether or not they are flamenco aficionados. I try to dance, transmitting whatever it is I feel, no matter who the audience is.

ARTS ATL: Do you feel freer when you improvise or when you perform set choreography, and can you share a little about your creative process?

Farruquito: I feel free when I improvise and when I dance choreography. Because even though I may have a choreographed section, the expression within that section changes in the moment. And I always leave room to improvise. What I do is create the music first, and then I dance to it however I feel in the moment. Sometimes the dance is insufficient to express what I want to express, so I call on the music to help me.

ARTS ATL: And where do you find inspiration?

Farruquito: Each time in something different — in the beauty of life, in people, in the meaning of flamenco lyrics, in nostalgia . . .

ARTS ATL: Along with directing the dance and music, what role do you play in the theatrical design?

Farruquito: I try to design alongside the theater technicians in almost everything they do. That way, they are an extension of me, and I of them. The important thing for me is that we are all one team, a family.

ARTS ATL: You say you feel more like a child than ever before, with more excitement and awe toward the dance — that your maturity has allowed you to realize the immensity of flamenco, creating a renewed wonder at the art form. But has dancing ever felt like a job rather than a calling? How do you maintain your joy in dance?

Farruquito: It can be hard to maintain an excitement toward dance and not let it become a job. To avoid that, I always surround myself with people with lots of joy and eagerness — my family and friends. Only in that way can you always feel at ease and keep the thrill of dancing.

ARTS ATL: There is a lot of talk in flamenco about what is pure and what isn’t. Can you speak to that?

Farruquito: You cannot leave and come back to the essence and purity of the dance — if that’s the case, then you never had it. Purity is something that is connected to you, goes with you, no matter what you do. That doesn’t have anything to do with doing something better or worse. Purity for me is a synonym to truth and faithfulness to yourself. And if you are true to what you feel, you’re going to be a bright artist and different in each moment. Because each time we perform, we feel things a certain way, depending on what we’re going through in life. That is the most contemporary and most conceptual art I know.

In addition to Saturday’s show at the Rialto Center for the Arts in Atlanta, Farruquito will perform on Friday, February 15, at Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall in Athens.