BALLET NACIONAL DE ESPAÑA
Text: Manuel Moraga
A THIRTY-YEAR LEGACY
In 1978, the Dirección General de Teatro y Espectáculo of Spain’s Cultural Ministry, created the Ballet Nacional Español. Thirty years later, the current director, José Antonio, decided to wind up the celebration with a medley of some of the most noteworthy choreographies of the state company’s repertoire which have become part of the country’s cultural patrimony.
Antonio Gades, Antonio, María de Ávila, Aurora Pons, Nana Lorca and Victoria Eugenia, Aída Gómez, Elvira Andrés and José Antonio (twice) are the people who have been in charge of maintaining this cultural asset which is Spanish and flamenco dance. It is precisely this high quality which weighs heaviest in the programs José Antonio is offering at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. In this day and age, it is unthinkable to put the choreographies of Pilar López, José Granero or Antonio on stage without the existence of this publicly-funded company. The passage of time may treat some works better than others, but it’s our national heritage and we must keep it alive.
José Antonio has put together two programs (one from September 10th to the 20th, and another from the 22nd to the 27th), but both open with “Bodas de Sangre” whose first director was Antonio Gades. This was the first time I’d seen this particular show, and I must say it impresses me as one of these works that stands up well to the passage of time, something which cannot be said about Alberto Lorca’s “Ritmos”. In this piece, Antonio Márquez’ magnificent performance is noteworthy, and Esther Jurado is without a doubt one of the most interesting and complete dancers we have. The balance between physical beauty, technique, expressive qualities and sensuousness is, in my opinion, close to perfect. It’s not easy to dance with Antonio Márquez – such an expansive character – without becoming overshadowed, but Esther Jurado manages to shine through wherever she dances.
It would be too lengthy to speak in detail about each of the pieces, but suffice it to say that the performances of Lola Greco (whom we would like to see more of), Merche Esmeralda (magnificent as Medea), Maribel Gallardo, Primitivo Daza, Miguel Ángel Corbacho, Jesús Carmona, Fran Velasco, Elena Algado and José Antonio, who never ceases to surprise us with his appearances on stage, and the brilliant manner in which he resolves them, are noteworthy. Also worthy of mention is the fact, here demonstrated, that the Ballet Nacional has been an exceptional school of dance, and a breeding-ground for great talent.
But if the choreographies and interpreters are important, so are all the stage workers, the stage-sets, lighting, wardrobe and music. Manuel de Falla, Ravel, Turina, Rodrigo, Manolo Sanlúcar and José Nieto are the composers. Picasso, Tony Benítez and José Granero designed the sets and figures. Feddy Gerlache and José Granero, the lighting. No wonder the nearly three hours the program lasts are plum full of artistic elements that deserve to be sampled and enjoyed. Ah yes, and let’s not forget the wonderful Madrid Municipal Orchestra under the direction of José de Eusebio.
What the program may lack is a purely flamenco piece of dance – in Leyenda for example, there are some memorable passages – but we understand how hard it must be to select choreographies from the abundantly rich repertoire of the Ballet Nacional de España. At the beginning of 2009, José Antonio began the celebration of the 30th anniversary of this company bringing back the bolero school of Ángel Pericet, Mariemma and Victoria Eugenia. Now the final shows include pieces by Pilar López, Antonio Gades, Alberto Lorca, José Granero, Antonio and José Antonio himself. It might be nice to see choreographies of other major names of our time, such as Mario Maya, but the most important thing in this commemoration is the preservation of part of the rich cultural heritage for which the Ballet Nacional de España is custodian.