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Life After Carmen's Death:

Compañia Flamenca Antonio Marquez

by Rosella Simonari

March 14, 2007 -- Jesi (Ancona), Italy

The Fate theme from the opera “Carmen” resounds as a prelude to the performance. The curtain opens and the audience is immersed in the exciting world of the arena where a powerful Escamillo fights against a bull. At his back, Carmen fights with José. This double narrative is performed in silence and it gives the impression of a cinematic sequence. Escamillo, danced by a towering Antonio Márquez, wears a red cloak and his movements become more and more sustained as the crowd claps its hands. Carmen is then killed by José and everything changes, the cheerful mood is broken and Escamillo cries all his despair in front of Carmen’s dead body. It is from this scene that “Después de Carmen” [After “Carmen”] begins. “Después” is an original interpretation of the Carmen myth: it begins where the tragedy ends with Carmen’s death. The central role is performed by Escamillo and the story is about his pain and difficulty in moving on after the loss of his lover. Carmen reappears as a ghost and, in a melancholic trio, convinces Escamillo to accept the love of another woman.

The dances are well crafted with a nice balance between solo virtuoso performance and group pieces. Márquez insists maybe too much on Escamillo’s grief, thus impeding the flow of the piece. Furthermore, Carmen seems to loose her strong personality once she becomes a ghost. Incontrast, she is delicate and almost sweet in her pas de deux with Escamillo. However, it is during the male dancing that the Spanish choreographer shows his talent both as dancer and choreographer. In the middle section, when Escamillo seems to be overtaken by his nightmares, a group of male dancers dressed in black enters the stage and engages the protagonist in a thrilling confrontation. With their arms up in a V-shape, and their fingers pointed as if they were picadors ready to fight a bull, they face him, they form a circle to imprison him and, in the end, they beat him. It is a high paced choreography of exquisite coordination and force.

The Compañía Flamenca Antonio Márquez was founded in 1995 and it began touring outside Spain in 1997. This year, 2007, marks the tenth anniversary of the company’s international affirmation and it is being celebrated with a tour to Brazil and Italy, where it has always been very well received. Márquez studied at the Spanish National Ballet School and then joined the Spanish National Ballet as a principal dancer. Before forming his own company, he danced many roles and important productions such as “Los Tarantos” and “El Sombrero de Tres Picos”. His particular inclination to experiment brought him to take part in contemporary works such as “Pentesilea” with Manuela Rodríguez and “El Forastero de Santiago” with choreography by Yoko Sendi. His movement approach is versatile and precise and he is very good in mingling flamenco with ballet.

The second piece presented in Jesi was a dance inspired by Manuel de Falla’s opera “La vida breve” [the short life], whose plot revolves around the figure of a gypsy who falls in love with a young man from a higher class who in the end marries another woman. The gypsy, hurt in her feelings, dies at the end of the story. Antonio Márquez’s choreography does not present the story very clearly. Maybe only part of the piece was presented at the Pergolesi Theatre. In spite of that, the group pieces are very enjoyable and the pas de deux between the two protagonists are quite interesting. The device of a white veil was used especially well to create some nice visual effects.

The last dance of the evening, the “Bolero”, is introduced without intermission and it consists of a series of dance phrases where groups of dancers alternate with each other. Márquez appears and disappears either together with one of the groups or in virtuoso solo pieces. His braceo (arm movement) is very dramatic and his taconeo (footwork) is stunning. His approach to Ravel’s “Bolero” seems to reduce its hypnotic effect. In contrast, Maurice Bejart’s version, historically  interpreted by a beautiful Luciana Savignano, tends to emphasise it with the insistent repetition of movements. The audience was totally conquered by Antonio Márquez’s stage presence and his excellent dancers. Two encores were necessary to ‘calm’ them down.

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