Compania Espanola de Antonio Marquez
March 14, 2002
Music: Emilio de Diego
Costumes: Jose Granero
Lighting: Jose Osuna
Antonio Marquez and company
Music: Pablo Sarasate
Choreography: Antonio Marquez
Lighting: Jose Osuna
Choreography: Javier La Torre
Costumes: Teodomiro/Antonio Marquez
Lighting: Antonio Marquez
Antonio Marquez and company
Nothing in CAL Performances' thorough press kit indicated that Marquez and company have danced in London. Vittoria Ottolenghi writes glowing comments in a reprint from L'Expresso, indicating that Antonio Marquez is in his late thirties. We're lucky that dance won out over the bullring. Marquez is a remarkable artist and every inch both a cliche about the Spanish male dancer and far, far beyond it. I have not been so beguiled by a male flamenco artist since the Mexican-born Luisillo danced in San Francisco with his first wife, Theresa. If London has not seen Marquez, I hope that oversight is corrected shortly.
The company has sixteen dancers besides Marquez, six musicians, and a technical staff of four. What we saw at Zellerbach, however, was a consistent set of ten supporting dancers plus Marquez himself. The musicians appear on the stage only in the final number, which is the closed to the cuadro flamenco tradition most of us are used to seeing.
Lighting is a consistent support to the Marquez performance, providing both clarity and murkiness according to theme and emphasis. The use of formations and groups also speaks to a further heightening of the structure - sometimes groups of twos and threes in opposition, sometimes five against five, sometimes all ten close together or paired off. Everything was used intensify the theatricality and the familiar cliches of Spanish flamenco. But elevated with the sheer stylishness of the costumes, the women's dresses, particularly, integrate their visual embellishments with space. To see five lively, pretty young women grouped together, arms raised in emphasis with their ruffled trains gathered like swirls of sea foam at their feet was a surprising, happy touch. When the women were in lavender, the principal woman was in a distinct shade of purple; when they were in green, the principal was in a lighter shade, with ornamentation designed to reveal the line of the body.
The men's colors of black or beige, the reference to the Spanish riding habits, all provided a tidiness. When the dress code for adolescents on San Francisco's streets today is largely sizes which swallow the body line with six sizes bigger than necessary, the stretched perfection of the Spanish performance trousers, revealing body line and male genitals is deliciously refreshing. Oh, vive, vive, vive la difference!
Marquez literally danced at the footlights at the beginning, slipping out in front of the mint and purple curtain from stage right to execute a few corrida like movements to entice us, to focus us and say as much, "Come, follow me as the curtain rises." As that barrier rose, the murky stage displayed outlines of male figures in chairs, illuminated one by one as Marquez slipped into the murky background. Then the women were spotlighted, and finally, after the lighting had led us through hide and seek we saw them all. I know of no other company which has utilized such theatrical tricks to enhance their presentation.
What is most modern about the ensemble apart from the lighting is the use of gesture and the sporadic break of opposition in movement. Cheeks are stroked, man or woman, a head is nestled against a chest, there is an actual or near embrace, or there is a highly suggestive seduction which culminates when Marquez opens his shirt as his partner lies prone, back arched on the floor before a swift blackout. The arms occasionally lose their curl and implore, or reach and the use of the ensemble clumped together stage center, arms upraised, light beaming down to emphasize their corolla qualities has distinct kinship to central movements in the "Trinity" ballet of Jerry Arpino of the Joffrey Ballet. Whether borrowed or devised, it is effective within the company's context, and, while copied, seems to the point and still keeping the company's individual voice. That speaks a lot for the ensemble's quality.
I've mish-mashed across first and third numbers. There are sections with the use of the shawl and also sections with the castanets, and throughout the women kick their trains with enormous energy and gusto. The men are particularly strong, highly individual in body type and facial structure, and provide a perfect foil for the women and as background to Marquez. When the five of them undertake a unison section, sheer dominance and patriarchy enjoys a genuine renaissance.
Antonio's Zapateado was simply extra-ordinary. This man is willing to exhaust himself, expose himself, and demonstrate phenomenal control. It starts sprightly and lively with the typical slapping of thighs and heels, and Marquez guides his body forward and back in a parallel across center stage. Fine and good. Then comes some stormy taconeo with a burst of energy and elan that makes the audience erupt into applause. He stands stark still, confronting us, allowing us to measure and admire him. But his hand, as if moving the bullfighter's cape, stills us and he begins to mark the floor with his subtler rhythms, shading and toning each strike of heel or toe. The sound becomes progressively softer and more measured and there is this enormous hush vibrating between artist and audience. My friend and I mutually are holding our breath at the sheer phenomenon of this craggy-faced man conquering us and any one else in the audience prone to skepticism. The style may be old-fashioned, but heavens praise the heart and genuine pleasure he takes and receives from us. His delight in our appreciation was something which reaffirms an artist's humility can circle virtuosity with as much skill and panache as the most sophisticated performer. Marquez reached out and captured a child's wonder in the audience and reflected his own in equal measure.