Flamenco forever

The Antonio Gades Company will perform three riveting dance pieces around the country.

Flemenco 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Flemenco 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Flamenco is a style of dance not suited for those who get weak in the knees. This steamy-hot art form embodies the kind of exotic energy that draws tourists to Spain in droves and leaves audiences gasping for air. Naturally, the performers who take on the flamenco form must be bold and intense. And when it comes to charisma, any flamenco artist will tell you that Antonio Gades was the king. Gades was a prolific performer and the father of a generation of dancers who continue to build on the flamenco style.
Though Gades passed away in 2004, his company, now managed by the Antonio Gades Foundation, continues to grow and expand, carrying his legacy to new cities and countries every year. Beginning on February 24, the Antonio Gades Company will perform two programs around Israel.
The program for this tour includes Blood Wedding, Flamenco Suite and Carmen. The troupe performed Carmen two years ago during their last visit in Israel. This ballet premiered in Paris in 1983 and is a staple in Gades’s repertoire and a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Though many playwrights, film directors and choreographers have interpreted the story of Carmen, Gades believed his version was a truly authentic adaptation. Gades’s take on Prosper Merimee’s novella brings Carmen back to her roots in Spain. Carmen is the story of a gypsy from Seville whose captivating beauty and fiery temper entangle the men around her in a web of confusion and jealousy. Playing the role of Carmen during this tour is the up-andcoming star Vanessa Vento. She joined the company in 2008 and is replacing artistic director Stella Arouzo in this role.
Blood Wedding is a six-scene dance based on Federico Garcia Lorca’s play of the same name. The original version of this work was made in collaboration with filmmaker Carlos Saura, whom Gades partnered with on many projects. The film was shown at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival and received rave reviews. In Blood Wedding, Gades allows the audience a glimpse into the Andalusian ritual of marriage.
Flamenco Suite is the oldest of the three works. Created between 1963 and 1968, Flamenco Suite explores many different configurations within the flamenco vocabulary. Solos, duets, trios and ensemble sections present an array of vignettes, each of which shows a different nuance of Gades’s distinguished movement language.
Gades not only danced and choreographed flamenco, he lived it. His joie de vivre won him a place in the hearts of many women, including four wives and a string of admirers. A close friend of Fidel Castro’s (Castro was Gades’s best man at his second wedding), Gades was an activist, a communist and a revolutionary director.
Born in the Alicante region of Spain in 1936, Gades scraped by doing odd jobs for several years. His striking good looks won him the attention of legendary choreographer Pilar Lopez, who gave him his first taste of the spotlight. In 1978, he founded Ballet Nacional de Espana, where he enjoyed the position of artistic director for several years. However, his staunch political beliefs were unpopular with the Spanish government, a situation that resulted in Gades’s resignation from this prestigious post. Shortly before his death, Gades was honored with the Order of Jose Martin in Havana, Cuba, where he spent most of his latter years and was laid to rest.
Gades’s deep involvement with the media, mainly cinema, is perhaps what set him apart from other famous flamenco artists. His dramatic portrayals of timeless tales translated beautifully onto the silver screen and won him exposure with a vast audience that most likely would not have gone to the theater to see his work.
The Antonio Gades Company will perform on February 24, 25 and 28 at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv; February 25 and 26 at the International Convention Center in Haifa; March 1 at the International Convention Center (Binyenei Ha’uma) in Jerusalem. For tickets, visit www.bimot.co.il.