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Antonio Gades Company - "Carmen" in Flamenco

by Marian Horosko
February 19, 2009
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
212.247.0430
Antonio Gades Company performed "Carmen" choreographed by Gades and Carlos Saura as part of the New York Flamenco Festival at City Center, February 18-22. Gades, a legendary figure in Spanish performance and choreography, created a Foundation just a few months before his death in 2004, to help continue and spread his artistic heritage.

"Carmen," as one of his choreographic creations, premiered in Paris in 1983, and is accompanied by the music of Georges Bizet, who composed the opera in 1875. It was ignored and vilified. Although a failure at its opening, Bizet's "Carmen" based on the "scandalous" story by Prosper Merimée in 1847, is now one of the most famous throughout the world. Gades, produced his theater piece after the success of the film by Gades and Carlos which came as a surprise and encouraged the theater version. Although the film is interesting, the work onstage as a flamenco piece gives it immediacy, spontaneity and electrifying life.

The production begins as a warm-up for the dancers as they practice arm movements, and heel-toe combinations. Gades saw Carmen as neither wanton nor anti-social, but as a warm, temperamental Spanish Gypsy who does as she pleases, has an exalted idea of freedom and would prefer to die rather than lose it. She becomes a mythic Spanish figure like those created in Martha Graham's defiant Greek women.

As performed by Stella Arauzo, the current artistic director, and one of several from the original Gades company, her Carmen is bold without being sassy, independent without being frivolous, seductive without being devious. Her dancing captures the eye from the first moment she appears in a group with her superb female dance ensemble. She creates a seduction scene, as she slowly removes her black lace mantilla and comb, that Salome would envy and Don José cannot resist. Her seductions could only be stopped by her death following her dalliance with a toreador.

Buenos Aires-born Adrián Galia, as Don José appears as a youthful suitor, and was properly raised by flamenco dancers and studied at the National Ballet School in Spain. He is quick, light and hopelessly smitten with Carmen.

Gades has added many group scenes to relieve the intensity of the story by comedy and by using the older, men and women, heavier dancers that appear in the group scenes. They look like Buddas but dance like feathers.
Because the story is so popular it has appeared in ballet companies around the world in choreographic versions: Alicia Alonso in Havana with choreography by Alberto Alonso; choreography by Roland Petit in France; Royal Danish Ballet and by John Cranko in Germany. For more information on flamenco dance: www.andaluciaflamenco.org.

The festival continued with "Los Farruco," in a performance
of Gypsy music and dance by the family of another legend: El Farruco. Farruquito and his brother, grandsons of the patriarch, created versions of various styles of gypsy music and dance, February 21 and 22, also at City Center.
Stella Arauzo and Adrian Galia in Antonio Gades Company's 'Carmen'

Stella Arauzo and Adrian Galia in Antonio Gades Company's "Carmen"

Photo © & courtesy of Francisco Manzano


Roland Petit version of 'Carmen' with Roberto Bolle (La Scala Ballet) and Paulina Semionova (Berlin State Opera)

Roland Petit version of "Carmen" with Roberto Bolle (La Scala Ballet) and Paulina Semionova (Berlin State Opera)

Photo © & courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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