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In Conversation With Antonio Marquez


By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 31 January 2001 - Arriving at the Opéra Bastille several hours before a performance of Antonio Marquez and company, in Paris for the dance scenes of Massenet's opera Don Quixote, I was surprised to see crowds already waiting for the flamenco in the amphitheatre. They weren't waiting for 'returns', but for a seat as close to the action as possible, a most unusual occurrence for France, the country of last minute arrivals.

The fame of this extraordinary dancer, now thirty-eight, who holds each man, woman and child in the audience spellbound by the sheer force of his phenomenal technique and personal charisma has over-taken him. What makes him unique is not only the explosion of fireworks his public has grown to expect, but also his spontaneity, joy and artistic generosity. He and his company bring blasts of fresh air to the dance scene today.

Although his family, neither dancers nor gypsies, moved to Ibiza for professional reasons when he was barely four, Antonio Marquez was born near Seville, the cradle of flamenco, where his earliest memories were of watching the bulls in the fields behind his home.

Compagnie Antonio Marquez
Compagnie Antonio Marquez in Reecuentros
Choreography: Jose Granero
Photo : Icare

"I was fascinated by the beauty and nobility of the toreros", he told me at the Theatre de Saint- Quentin-en-Yvelines last December, where his company was presenting his recent work, Despues de Carmen (After Carmen). " It was the splendour and tradition of the bullfight which attracted me, although I never went to one, and had no notion of the bull getting killed. Then several years later the arm movements and poses of a troupe of dancers I saw reminded me of the bullfighters I'd seen training, and I realised I wanted to dance. Confronted with my insistence to start immediately, my mother took me to a school on the island run by Maria Martin and Paco Torres. "

"So", he mused, 'I began practising when I was nine, repeating the same steps over and over again, but as I grew older and saw dance on television, I realised it wasn't enough, and went to Madrid to the National Ballet of Spain, where I studied with Antonio Ruiz Soler. "

Although Marquez never saw him dance, he could have had no better teacher than Antonio, the greatest Spanish dancer of his generation, famed for his personal magnetism and virtuoso footwork, who pushed his young protége into finding his own style.

" Temperamentally, we were very different but he made me understand that I had to use my own personality", Marquez recalled. ". He gave me the main roles in many of his ballets which were a synthesis of academic classical dance and Spanish dance, as in Le Tricorne and I began to interpret works by José Granero, the choreographer who later suggested I start my own company.

"The idea of doing exactly what I wanted was very appealing, so in 1995 I got together a small group of classically trained dancers, and we made our first appearance in Seville with Granero's Movimiento Perpetuo. Soon after I also wrote the choreography for the dance sequences in Carmen at the Opéra of Monte-Carlo, which I loved doing.

Compagnie Antonio Marquez
Compagnie Antonio Marquez in Reecuentros
Choreography: José Granero
Photo : Icare

"I want to take flamenco out of the tavernas and cafés, and bring it into the theatres in the form of ballets, putting it on the bigger stage like Antonio and Pilar Lopez before me.", he said. "I want to be in touch with today while still keeping my strong Spanish identity. It' s a way of expanding Spanish dance, for my company is not only flamenco."

Up until recently, Marquez' wife Eva, who teaches dance to the company, and his children accompanied him everywhere, but now the older children go to school and stay at home some fifteen miles from Madrid. "It's as if I have two lives", he said "Marquez is my mother's name which I use when I work, and when I'm dancing nothing else exists. It can't. Flamenco is a feeling you have in your heart which you share with your audience. When I listen to the music, it tells me what to do, and it's as if I get explosions all over my body".

"Every day I dance differently, for it depends on the mood I'm in, whether or not I've spoken to my wife, whether it's morning afternoon or evening, or it can simply depend on the weather. And I listen to the public because how an audience feels affects me too. It's an exchange of energy. My movements are faster or slower, and I play with the rhythm. It's particularly special when I dance without music because I never know what I'm going to do until I've done it. I just listen with my heart and it comes from within."

Compagnie Antonio Marquez
Compagnie Antonio Marquez in Reecuentros
Choreography: José Granero
Photo : Icare

He spoke to me of the importance of telling a story, so that his dance explains something, and I learned that the hat he tips so beguilingly over his head is actually there for a purpose other than for making all the ladies in the audience squeal when he flings it off. When he arrived on stage as a cattle breeder, in waistcoat, boots and hat, for example, the hat showed that he was a stranger, and had come from afar.

Communication with the audience is primordial, he insisted, otherwise he gave everyone their money back! Happily, this does not seem to happen very often, and certainly not at the Theatre de Saint-Quentin-en-velines where he triumphed with Despues de Carmen, his new version of Carmen which begins with her death.

"Because I've danced Escamillo more times than I can remember , I had started wondering what happened after they brought him her body, so when the idea arose to create yet another Carmen, I seized the opportunity to continue the story, beginning with the torero's victory in the bull-ring. As I've always disliked Don José", he added, "he's not in it."

"It's a balletic and theatrical approach to the subject in which I used taped music of a full orchestra when Carmen appeared on stage as in a dream, and live music played by my musicians for the new girl. My wife and I also wrote a song for her, which says that although you must never forget the past, you must live for other people, so there is a message too."

"Nuria Leiva wrote the choreography for Escamillo as I don't like creating steps for myself, the flamenco solos were by Goyo Montero and I created the more classical passages of the work myself, but creation is more difficult than dance.

Compagnie Antonio Marquez
Compagnie Antonio Marquez in Movimiento
Choreography: Javier Latorre and Antonio Marquez
Photo : Icare

Antonio Marquez began composing dance for one of his pupils about eight years ago , and is enjoying a growing reputation as a choreographer of classical Spanish dance, another dimension of this extraordinary artist. Indeed, his contribution to Massenet's Don Quixote, sensitive, poetical, and romantic, was of exceptional beauty and the patterns woven by his dancers, particularly when they were silhouetted at the back of the stage, were sublime.

He laughs off the adulation he receives, although his eyes shone with real pleasure as I described the children I'd seen at his flamenco show, jumping up and down in excitement the moment he appeared, the traditional vibrant Spanish dancer the crowds desire, seducing the grey-haired grannies with his beguiling smile and impassioned dance. His effect on all audiences is electrifying, and indeed necessary for a good performance. Even when his back is turned, he is aware of the audience. With Marquez, raw emotion is translated into theatrical motion, and lucky indeed is the spectator who can follow his bursts of vivid movements faster than the eye can follow.

His effortless mastery of technique is the result of years of work, and all performances are preceded by three or four hours of non-stop dance to get rid of his surplus energy, in order, he says to have more control. "Dance isn't work", he told me, "I love it, and take classes in both classical and Flamenco every day. And I cannot stop. When I go on holiday to the mountains with my family, my body starts to hurt after three or four days without exercising".

However, Antonio Marquez will not see the mountains for some time yet as he is shortly taking his dancers and musicians on an eagerly awaited tour to the United States, followed by their first visit to South America. "It's my dream to take them there ", he said.

1 February - 27 March 2002: U. S. Tour

Music: Emilio de Diego
Choreography: José Granero

"Zapateado de Sarasate"
Music: Sarasate
Choreography: Antonio Marquez

"Movimiento Flamenco"
Traditional music
Choreography: Javier Latorre / Antonio Marquez

February 2002

I -2 Atlanta
4 Sarasota, FL
5 Naples, FL
7 Ames, L.A.
8 Champaign, Il
9 Kalamazoo, MI
10 Detroit, MI
12 Flint, MI
13 East Lansing, MI
14 Colombus, OH
15 Indianapolis
16 Chicago
17 Cleveland
19 Wilmington, DE
20 New Brunswick
22 Binghampton, NY
23 Bethlehem, NY
24 Elmin, NY
25 Worcester, MA
26 Norristown , NJ
28 Englewood, NJ

March 2002

1 Stonybrook, NY
2 Purchase, NY
3 Washington, George Mason University
4 Hampton, VA
5 Charleston, SC
7 Albuquerque, NM
8 Tucson, AZ
9, 10 Phoenix AZ
12 Palm Desert , CA
13 San Francisco
14 Berkley
15 Riverside CA
16 Los Angeles
19 Sacramento
20 Arcata, CA
21 San Diego, CA
22 Marlborough, CA
24 San Luis Obispo, CA
26 Denver, CO

Related: Flamenco: Antonio Marquez and Company

L'art du Flamenco et Portrait d'Agujetas

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for

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