Ballroom ritual

Tamsin Grainger talks to Antonio Vargas of Strictly Ballroom fame.

‘I think dancing flamenco is the most exhilarating feeling.‘ says Antonio Vargas, ‘it’s like a religion to me. a celebration full of ritual.’ Despite me waking Vargas from a chill-induced sleep, he warms to his subject immediately. ‘1 test myself with the audience and every time I‘ve finished 1 am wondrously surprised at the beauty of the dance.‘

Veteran of flamenco, choreographer and dancer of many years experience, Antonio Vargas has recently fandangoed into the public eye as Tara Morice‘s father in the film Strictly Ballroom. Giving a general boost to the ballroom world and presenting flamenco very cleverly, the box office hit has prompted hundreds of young people to try out two-stepping. What has for many years been reserved for tea- dances and a selected few sequin-stomping teenagers. is now popular with everyone.

Antonio Vargas first hit Edinburgh as part of the Festival back in 1973 and has toured the world ever since. His choreography includes Quixote and the London production of Fiddler On The Roof and he has worked with comedian Peter Sellers and Tommy Steele.

Flamenco musicians and dancers have picked up influences from multifarious sources, according to Vargas. The precise, thrilling footwork has been updated through the influence of great tapper Fred Astaire; the rhythms of the bossanova, jazz. even salsa and blues have entered the realm of flamenco guitar; and the youngsters have been impressed by the likes of Nureer and Baryshnikov with their dare-devil spins and sophisticated port-de-bras.

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Vargas speaks lovingly about his art. ‘The Farruca. for example. which 1 dance as part of my solo. was originally a Galician dance adopted by gypsies using the traditional minor key and the rhythms of bullfighting. it is a successful mixture oftwo folk styles where the male loves to show himselfoff in slow and poised poses.‘

Al Andalus, a dance theatre piece by Vargas, is unusual. Describing it as ‘rewitnessing the cousin an form, but depicting it in a modern way.‘ he has married the cousin - Arabic or Middle Eastern dance to his own flamenco. The show mirrors this in a

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Antonio Vargas gives his daughter pasodoble lessons in Strictly Ballroom

l love story between a Spaniard and a Moorish

woman; the latter played by Belen Fernandez, ‘a magnificent young fireball and unbelievable dancer' from the famous Cumbre Flamenco company.

Vargas is admirably sure of himself. ‘When you get to be 50 the machinery that you had when you were twenty is replaced with expression and control,‘ he says, ‘l know exactly what i want and when the energies of myself, the singer, the guitarist and a partner are united. that is the most fantastic thing in the world.‘

i Al Andalus, Usher Hall. Edinburgh, 2 October.

Acting up

Call me a sad sycophantic slag, but my own enloyment of theatre was permanently ruined about six years ago by the Actors Touring Cornpany’s production of Doctor Faustus. So impressive was this three-men adaptation of Marlowe’s classic that everything since has paled in cornparlson, which is an unfortunate situation really. Meanwhile the Arts Council of Great Britain has awarded the ATC a 35.4 per cent increase in its

has marked the company’s fourteen- year history. ‘lntroducing British ,' audiences to neglected European 3 Masterpieces,’ is the brief the four l successive Artistic Directors have i imposed upon themselves, and the x tum-over of leadership has led to the I ATC constantly shifting and redefining 3 its approach to those classics. , But the demands and economics of i touring, together with the plethora of ! characters found in those European l

7--.‘ ! open style of perfonnence, with actors . f ! doubling and scripts revised - as in

" .1 the case of Celestine, whose original " 24 acts have been somewhat reduced.

sorts of experiments‘that you do find new ways of talking to the audience. And i think it creates very exciting demands on actors.’

Celestine, while hardly known on these shores, has been the subject of thousands of productions in Spain. The story is believed to have had some influence on Shakespeare, who replaced the pessimisticelly black perspective with romanticism to create llorneo and Juliet. But while the latter’s love scenes are near-rape scenes in llolas, Phllippou still suggests there is an uplifting element in the play. ‘it’s a celebration of life - it kind of says you have to enjoy it for

"mm"! WM (“Ml 3m" W m Celestial: Inspiration for Romeo and Julia! . ‘It would be disingenuous of me to say what it is - for all its pain and all Its has “WWW” “Wow, "‘I 3" Edinburdr. é I would rather work with six actors hephezardness end all Its

WW"! "33 1m 5990"“ ' "V Fernando Boles’ 15th century play, than with twenty,’ says Phlllppou, ‘but inconsequence.’ (Stephen Chester) "mm mm": "ck “mm! Celestine, Is an example of the : I believe that necessity Is the mother Celestine, Reverse Theatre,

whose first production premiers in

contintu of style and material which i of invention and it’s through these

I Edinburgh, Thurs 7-Sun 10 Oct.

The List 24 September—7 October [993 47