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Prom 17: Antonio Márquez Company, BBC Philharmonic, Mena | reviews, news & interviews

Prom 17: Antonio Márquez Company, BBC Philharmonic, Mena

Prom 17: Antonio Márquez Company, BBC Philharmonic, Mena

Phwoar: a night of Spanish dance turns up the temperature to full steam

Now take a cold bath: the Antonio Márquez Company rip up the Albert Hall© BBC/Chris Christodoulou

JThis year’s Proms have been accompanied by an unusual choral drone, a monotony of voices whinging about the prodigious heat at the Albert Hall. For one night only no one was complaining as the temperature gauge went up to something like 111. You’ve heard of the Hollywood Prom and Comedy Prom, the Gospel Prom and the Dalek Prom.

As a troupe of classical Spanish dancers swished and swirled, stomped, strutted and thrust to pulsating Hispanic music, here was something never before seen: the Erotica Prom.

Technically it’s Wagner week, with the bicentenary being celebrated night after night for hour upon hour. To give the Prommers a break, the programme was interrupted with a light evening of dance music. That’s how it was billed at any rate. The world premiere of Joybox, John McCabe’s opening bauble, flashed by bouncily without necessarily evoking a sense of the Japanese games arcade which inspired it. Beethoven’s Seventh qualified for inclusion by dint of its danceable dactyl rhythms – long short short – spread and iterated across four seductive movements and parcelled out among the sections, woodwinds in the first, second horn in the third. Juanjo Mena conducted his BBC Philharmonic cohorts as if the orchestra was his dance partner, jigging and gliding like the life and soul of the party.

But the performance you really wanted to mark your dance card for came after the interval, when the blank forestage suddenly filled with the Antonio Márquez Company, a dozen or so men and women charged with playing out the narrative of Manuel De Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat (1916-9), in which a young married couple outwit a randy old magistrate and reignite their love. This was originally a commission by Diaghilev and enjoyed the contribution of Picasso and Massine, whose choreography has long since been superseded by that of Márquez. First performed in 1998, this was a richly patterned demonstration of classical Spanish dance which most Prommers will have had down as flamenco.

As Márquez’s programme note explained, there’s a bit more to it than that particular F-word, although another F-verb looks to be very much at the heart of the style, especially once the company stayed onstage to perform an unaccompanied entr’acte which segued seamlessly into Ravel’s Bolero. The Falla (which also featured vocal colour from mezzo Clara Mouriz somewhat marooned in front of the percussion) accentuated the jollity and melodrama of Spanish passion and perhaps some of the absurdity of sex games played out with impossibly straight backs. The Bolero was something else altogether. With each da capo, a fresh permutation of dancers – men, women, men and women – wove a sinuous spell with moves giving off a barely bridled heat. When this is shown on BBC television (it'll have baffled Radio 3 listeners), make sure you catch it. It is utterly sensational. You’ll need to take a cold bath afterwards.

Overleaf: watch the Antonio Márquez Company perform unaccompanied at the Prom

Jasper Rees on Twitter

With each da capo, a fresh permutation of dancers wove a sinuous spell with moves giving off a barely bridled heat


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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As a long-standing member of the 1st violin section of the BBC Phil I just wanted to say how simply incredible last night's show was. It was one heck of a sweaty night to remember! Bravo to the spectacular Antonio Márquez Company and everyone else involved but especially to our principal conductor Juanjo Mena for pulling off what may well turn out to be the highlight of these 2013 Proms!

Just watched Friday night at the Proms....wonderful music and spectacular dancing.....thank you BBC 4

A great evening only spoilt by the Presenter completely ruining the short encore by talking through it.

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