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After a seven-month shutdown, the Ballet Nacional de España (BNE) will bring to Teatro Circo de Albacete the programme Invocación on 29 and 30 October. After Albacete, it will tour Terrassa (Barcelona), Zaragoza, St Petersburg (Russia), Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid), Águilas (Murcia) and Pamplona, plus other cities to be confirmed. Also, this season the Spanish Dance public company will premiere La Bella Otero, by Rubén Olmo; a new choreography for Capricho español, with music by Rimski-Korsakov; and a programme about Antonio Ruiz Soler on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of his birth.

“Unfortunately, Antonio el bailarín has not been paid as many tributes as he deserves”, says Rubén Olmo, director of the Ballet Nacional de España. “Antonio reformed dancing and made Spanish dance even greater, in addition to being the most versatile dancer, choreographer, and director in history. He had excellent command of all the disciplines and staged wonderful folklore, stylised dance, escuela bolera and flamenco shows. He was a genius and a Spanish dance figure gifted with a special charisma. Antonio was unique”, he added.

The Ballet Nacional de España regularly schedules key pieces by Antonio Ruiz Soler, especially Zapateado de Sarasate, Eritaña or El sombrero de tres picos. It even premiered in 2016 an Homenaje a Antonio Ruiz Soler, which included some of his most emblematic works. The distinguishing feature of the programme Centenario de Antonio Ruiz Soler that the BNE is to present on 15 April at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville is the inclusion of Sonatas, with music of Padre Soler unabridged. The piece had not been performed in full since it was first staged at the Teatro Lope de Vega in Seville in 1982 which then toured Spain and the United States in 1983. “I wanted this escuela bolera work to be in the Centenario, because it is a very good reflection of the influence of classical dance technique in Antonio’s style; it has a perfect structure, like a classical ballet”, Rubén Olmo explained.

This programme that the Ballet Nacional de España dedicates to one of the artists that has most influenced the evolution of Spanish dance, -Antonio el bailarín, deceased in 1996- is also different from previous tributes in that it includes four new pieces that are inspired by his style, aesthetics, and character. With the title Estampas flamencas, Rubén Olmo and Miguel Ángel Corbacho, BNE assistant director and former principal dancer, have produced some choreographies that cover traditional flamenco from its origins, both in terms of costumes and music; a review of original cante (singing), dance, and el toque that includes the flamenco palos (styles) of zorongo, martinete, caracoles and sevillanas. “I think he’d have loved what we’ve prepared for his centenary, this version of his style we’ve done with so much love and respect”, the BNE director said.

Also newly created is Leyenda, choreographed by dancer and choreographer Carlos Vilán for Isaac Albéniz’s music composition Asturias. Rubén Olmo decided to commission him to create a new staging for this music, a staple in the repertoires Antonio directed, as Carlos Vilán has a deep knowledge of the master’s style, having been principal dancer in his company. A new feature in this choreography is that the solo is for a female dancer, while in Antonio’s company it was performed by a male dancer.

The programme is rounded off with the solo that Antonio included in all his charity performances and no doubt is one of his best-known pieces, Zapateado de Sarasate; along with Fantasía galaica, with music by Ernesto Halffter. “The Zapateado was his signature. We just could not leave it out. And Fantasía galaica, based on Galicia folklore is superb, I’d say it’s my favourite”, Rubén Olmo stated. “A work like it is still to be created”.

In the case of these two choreographies, as in Sonatas, the staging will stick to the original, so the BNE team is studying the existing audiovisual records to follow as closely as possible the first version of these works directed by Antonio. It will only adapt set design elements so that both works can be performed together.
In the premiere of the Centenario Antonio Ruiz Soler on 15 April 2021 at the Teatro de la Maestranza, the Ballet Nacional de España will be joined by the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla, conducted by Manuel Coves.

‘La Bella Otero’, a dramatic ballet set in the Belle Époque

The second premiere of the Ballet Nacional de España in 2021 fulfils a dream Rubén Olmo had even before he became a choreographer. The plot is about the life of dancer and courtesan Carolina Otero, better known as La Bella Otero [Beautiful Otero]. The fact that one of the most famous women of her time (the late 19th century) came from a village in Pontevedra is what attracted the Ballet Nacional de España director when he first heard about her story. From the start he was aware that a large ballet company would be necessary to tell this story through dance. Being the head of the BNE gave him the opportunity he had long been waiting for.

His partners in this adventure are playwright Gregor Acuña-Pohl, who has researched all about La Bella Otero, including her memoires, and musicians Manuel Busto, Agustín Diassera, Alejandro Cruz Benavides, Diego Losada, Paul Vallet, Víctor Márquez, Rubén Díez and the group Rarefolk, who created the original score for this work. “The music is a very good portrayal of the life and time of La Bella Otero and above all, it is highly emotional and passionate”, says Rubén Olmo, who has designed a staging that includes different dance styles, from stylised dance to flamenco, contemporary dance, and folklore, to get a fusion that tells the story of La Bella Otero.

After being sexually assaulted when she was in her teens, Carolina Otero fled from her native village and managed to become famous as a singer and dancer first in Portugal and then in New York, thanks to a succession of benefactors and lovers who helped her advance in her career, until she eventually joined the Folies Bergère in Paris, where she performed for many years. She mixed with kings and princes of all over Europe whom she seduced and then left, leading many of them to commit suicide. But her true passion was gambling, and she lost all her jewels and fortune at Monte Carlo casino and spent the last years of her life alone and bankrupt in a small flat in Nice (France).

In Rubén Olmo’s words: “It’s going to be a very emotional, touching, and dramatic show as it’s the story of a woman who invents her origins to reach the very top but ends up alone and forgotten”.

For the leading role, the Ballet Nacional de España has invited Patricia Guerrero, one of the most relevant figures of avantgarde flamenco. She was solo dancer at the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía directed by Rubén Olmo, although they had worked together before. She currently has her own company. “She’s a bailaora who displays great energy on stage, a very powerful magnetism. That’s why I chose Patricia Guerrero for the role; she’s got that which made La Bella Otero great”, Rubén Olmo explained.

The senior répétiteur and BNE former principal dancer Maribel Gallardo will play the retired Otero. “In addition to being a dancer, she’s a wonderful actor. She’s played many roles on stage and is going to do a great job. Some of the key moments in the play are hers”, he added.

Costume is also a remarkable element in La Bella Otero, whose scenes take place in such different settings as a Galicia village, the Liceo de Barcelona, Monte Carlo casino or the court of the Tsar of Russia, all of which are the work of stage designer Eduardo Moreno. Costume designer Yaiza Pinillos has done a great research on the history of costumes in different periods in order to recreate a wide range of styles, from the clothes worn by Galician peasants to the Folies Bergère’s great show.

The Teatro de la Zarzuela de Madrid will host the premiere of La Bella Otero on 7 July 2021. The Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, conducted by Manuel Busto, will be accompanied by Alejandro Cruz, Agustín Diassera, David Chupete, Rarefolk and the flamenco musicians of the Ballet Nacional de España.

2020/2021 Ballet Nacional de España Tour Calendar

29-30 October 2020
Teatro Circo Albacete

13-15 November 2020
Centre Cultural Terrassa, Terrassa (Barcelona)

19-22 November 2020
Teatro Principal, Zaragoza

14 December 2020
Dance Open Festival
Teatro Oktyabrsky, San Petersburgo (Rusia)

16 December 2020
Gala Dance Open Festival
Teatro Oktyabrsky, St Petersburg (Russia)
Capricho español (world premiere)

23-24 January 2021
Teatro Mira, Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid)

15-16 April 2021
Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Centenario Antonio Ruiz Soler (premiere)

1 May
Auditorio Infanta Doña Elena, Águilas (Murcia)

16 May
Baluarte, Pamplona

7-18 July 2021
Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid
La Bella Otero (world premiere)