A Flash Mob in San Francisco with a Shining Star of Flamenco

Clara Rodruiguez leads a class learning Farruquito's flash mob choreography last week in San Francisco (Photo: Cy Musiker)

Farruquito is such a big deal in the world of flamenco, that like Beyoncé or Sting, he goes by just one name. He’s tall, dark and sexy. And he moves, one critic wrote, like an eagle in flight.

Farruquito embodies flamenco as a way of life
Farruquito embodies flamenco as a way of life (Photo: El Cordobés)

So it’s fascinating to see Farruquito, born Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya, slow his dancing down in the video he made a few months ago to demonstrate the choreography for a series of flash mobs staged first at the Biennial of Flamenco in Sevilla in early September, and this week in San Francisco.

“Is everybody excited,” asked Nina Menendez, founder and director of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival, of the 15 people attending a rehearsal last week for a flash mob scheduled for Friday, Sep. 30, at 6pm in UN Plaza, ahead of a performance by Farruquito on Saturday, Oct. 1.

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“Whoo-hoo” came the  the reply, as people stripped off layers of clothes, and spread out before the wall length mirror at City Dance Studios.

The students were a pretty sophisticated group of amateurs; many have been dancing flamenco for years, and most had seen Farruquito perform at least once.

“It’s almost like he keeps you guessing,” said Daniel Genera, probably the oldest student and definitely the only man in the group. “You don’t know what he’ll do next. It’s wild, but it’s very controlled and clean. And that’s what I love about it.”

Daniel Genera prepares for a Farruquito flamenco flashmob
Daniel Genera prepares for a Farruquito flamenco flash mob (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

Genera stayed in the back row, his eyes on the mirror and rehearsal leader Clara Rodriguez. She’s a longtime Bay Area flamenco teacher, who pulled up her skirt, in a classic Flamenco pose, to show off her footwork.

When I asked Rodriguez about the prospect of dancing with Farruquito, she sounded almost giddy, “I’m so excited. He’s been like my idol forever.”

Farruquito makes it all look so easy in the video, but everyone struggled at first to master the quick skips, the arching arms, the sudden weight shifts and leaps he demonstrated.

“I know it’s hard,” Rodriguez assured the group. “Don’t get scared.”

Clara Rodriguez leads the flash mob rehearsal
Clara Rodriguez leads the flash mob rehearsal (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

And 30 minutes of sweat-inducing work later, the dancers had gained some confidence, and the clapping and foot work became more coordinated.

“We’re getting it, we’re getting it,” Rodriguez encouraged. “It’s the hardest step in the whole piece, so don’t go ‘Oh my God.’ It took me a whole week to figure it out. Try it again.”

Finally, at about 11pm, Rodriguez led two complete run-throughs of the almost 4-minute dance, and then ended the rehearsal.

As they gulped down tea from a thermos, I talked with the dancers about why they love flamenco so much. For Clara De Bece, it’s the inclusiveness, “Everyone is welcome,” she said, even people who don’t fit a certain body type, or carry a bit more weight than, say, the average ballet student."

“I have classmates,” De Bece said, “who are like 70 years old and they’re dancing and they look great. And you can express yourself no matter what stage of your life you’re in. You don’t have to be anybody else. You can have your own style. With this type of dance.”

De Bece and Genera are Mexican-American, and I discovered that many in the class are immigrants from Spain or Latin America, drawn to a dance style that melds Romani, Spanish, North African, Sephardic and even Indian traditions.

The dancers are getting the hang of Farruquitos choreography
The dancers are getting the hang of Farruquitos choreography (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

“I’m from Argentina with Armenian roots,” Micaela Nerguizian told me, “and Flamenco captures the Latin and the Middle eastern in me.”

Nerguizian has been dancing flamenco for 8 years, but she said she doesn’t worry too much about technique.

“I’m here to have fun,” Nerguizuizian said. “That’s the most important part of all. It’s really about feeling it inside you…and just dancing your heart out."

Watching the rehearsal, I knew I couldn’t have put more than two steps together without forgetting what’s next. But “in flamenco," Rodriguez said, “it’s not about how much you can do, but what you do with what you already have.”

Good advice for anyone still thinking about joining the flashmob on Friday.

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