By DEBORAH FRIEDES GALILI
Although Israel is best known for contemporary dance, Israeli audiences seem to have an insatiable appetite for flamenco. Besides boasting several thriving local flamenco companies and an annual flamenco festival and competition, the country has hosted some of the world's most prominent flamenco troupes in performances that draw large, enthusiastic crowds. Now, after two previous successful visits to Israel, the legendary Antonio MÃ¡rquez is returning with his company to satiate Israelis' hunger for top-notch Spanish dance. "The Israeli audience embraced us on our previous visits and we would like to return a warm embrace," explains MÃ¡rquez.
Born in 1963 in Seville, MÃ¡rquez studied flamenco with Antonio Ruiz Soler, a leading dancer of his day, and joined the renowned National Ballet of Spain in 1982. MÃ¡rquez's phenomenal technique and dramatic stage presence made him a star with the company and a popular guest artist in other preeminent companies and international galas. As a performer, he received coveted awards including the Nureyev Prize, and in 1998, he was named Spain's Most Esteemed Professional Dancer.
In 1995, the virtuoso dancer founded CompaÃ±ia Antonio MÃ¡rquez. With MÃ¡rquez and a roster of talented dancers enlivening captivating, colorful productions, the Madrid-based company has garnered critical acclaim and won a popular following in both national and international tours. For its third trip to Israel, CompaÃ±ia Antonio MÃ¡rquez will be the guest of honor of the international dance series at the Herzliya Center for the Performing Arts from January 13-16 before touring to Haifa, Rishon Lezion, and Jerusalem.
MÃ¡rquez has planned an enticing double-bill for his troupe's Israeli performances. Set to Maurice Ravel's rousing score, Bolero highlights MÃ¡rquez's penchant for combining classical flamenco technique with strikingly contemporary choreography. Positioned center stage in a spotlight, every fiber of MÃ¡rquez's body exudes power and passion; bursts of lightning-fast footwork are juxtaposed with slow head rolls, subtly expressive isolations, and the gloriously smooth unfurling of his muscled arms. As the music builds, so too does the action with the ensemble. MÃ¡rquez smartly moves the dancers around the stage in striking formations, sometimes punctuating a strong unison section with an eye-catching canon. All the while, the group entrances with their proud carriage, mesmerizing arm motions, and percussive, rhythmic steps.
Besides Bolero, MÃ¡rquez has prepared Flamenco Celebration especially for this tour. Danced to stirring guitar and vocal music, this vibrant group work hews more closely to traditional notions of flamenco dance. Women in tiered ruffled dresses and swirling fringed scarves sweep elegantly through the space, while men in smart suits show off their impeccable high-speed footwork. Sometimes the group surrounds a soloist, clapping, stomping, and gesturing to accentuate the lead dancer's dazzling movement and impassioned performance. Here too, MÃ¡rquez electrifies with his brilliant technique and commanding, expressive presence. With such a superb flamenco dancer at the helm, and with an exciting cast of outstanding dancers in well-crafted, compelling choreography, CompaÃ±ia Antonio MÃ¡rquez's concerts are themselves cause for celebration.
CompaÃ±ia Antonio MÃ¡rquez performs at the Herzliya Center for the Performing Arts from January 13-16 at 9:00 p.m. Tickets (269-299 NIS) are available at 1-700-70-29-29. Additional performances are at the Haifa Auditorium (January 17, 8:30 p.m. 04-8418411), Rishon Lezion's Heichal Hatarbut (January 18, 8:30 p.m., 03-9666141), and the Sherover Theater in Jerusalem (January 20, 8:30 p.m., 02-6237000).
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