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Antonio Marquez and Company

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 30 April 2001 - All the colours, riches and culture of Spain were concentrated on the small, intimate stage of theAmphitheatre of the Opera Bastille transformed for all too short a time into an Andalusian tavern, with an Antonio Marquez, feet stamping as if possessed , smouldering then exploding onto the floor space.

Born with the fire inside that distinguishes genius from the merely commendable, Marquez, star dancer of the National Ballet of Spain before he founded his own company in 1995, imparts rapture and gaiety to his audience. More exuberant, more of a showman than Gades or the legendary Antonio, Antonio Marquez is nonetheless a pure Flamenco dancer in the great traditional style, following the fixed rules, but mesmerising his audience by the sheer force of his personality.

Possibly the most charismatic dancer since Rudolf Nureyev, he had just the right touch of arrogance as he led his young troupe , the average age not above twenty-two or three, chosen as much for their temperament and, presumably, beauty through an excellent programme of three pieces.

The opening number, Reencuentros, by the talented choreographer, José Granero (who founded the Ballet Espagnol of Madrid), was danced by the whole company, twelve in all. It was a traditional 'ballet', deeply rooted in folk-lore, combining flamenco, a word which originally referred to gypsy dances from Seville, performed to the accompaniment of clapping hands and songs, with classical Spanish dance.

The girls, eyes sparkling, swayed with Southern grace and femininity. They were a joy to watch, with their vivid faces, soft delicate hands, and smooth rounded arm movements. Classically trained, they were all so technically perfect yet full of fire and passion.

This was followed by a zapateado to music by Pablo Sarasate, Marquez' own version of the piece written in 1946 by Sanchez for the great Antonio Ruiz Soler. The interpretation was masterly. Marquez, in his high-waisted black trousers, white shirt and short green velvet waistcoat, burned up the floor space in one of the most beautiful, inventive and subtle solos I have seen. The audience was held spellbound by his stamping, frenetic footwork, particularly when he was unaccompanied, inhabited by dance, adding new steps and inventing counter-rhythms in all possible colours and shades to match his changes of mood.

They hurled their approval when he ripped off his shirt, baring a sexy brown torso streaming in sweat, and rose in their seats to join in the stamping and clapping. The atmosphere was contagious, and music and dance inseparable.

The programme ended with Movimiento flamenco, a magical journey through the different styles of flamenco, where tangos, alegrias and rousing bulerias gave the other members of the troupe the opportunity to shine. And they did. All were consummate artists in their own right whether expressing anguish, defiance, anger or joy.

Antonio Marquez takes tremendous risks, but losing his balance(which he didn't ), wouldn't really matter. It is all part of the excitement. But more than that is his belief in what he does, his malicious humour and generosity. He is also a devastatingly attractive man, vibrant with life , who does not take himself seriously.

All others seem a pale imitation.

Antonio Marquez and company also appeared in Don Quichotte, Massenet's opera showing at the Opera Bastille, stealing the limelight from both Dulcinée(Carmen Oprisanou), and the hero (Samuel Ramey), in a festive more classical work choreographed by Marquez himself.

Accompanied by musicians Rafael Montilla, Francisco de Dios Moreno, José Maria Uriarte, and singer Manuel Losada.

Related Article and photos: L'art du Flamenco et Portrait d'Agujetas
Related Websites: Flamenco

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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