Antonio Gades would take a huge leap forward for Spanish dance in 1974 with the creation of his ballet Bodas de Sangre, based on the play by Federico García Lorca, who in turn was inspired by the news of an incident that took place in Níjar in 1928. It was adapted for ballet by Alfredo Mañas, who had already collaborated with Antonio ten years before on Don Juan.
The Company, which at that time had under twenty members, would be in charge of staging the work, and the venue chosen for the world premiere would be the Teatro Olimpico in Rome, on April 2, 1974.
In Antonio’s words: "With Bodas de Sangre I wanted to pay homage to the poet, though I had to go to Rome for its premiere. I was born into a Mediterranean culture, which is a culture of jealousy, love and death that doesn’t just exist in dance, but also in literature and painting and other arts. A sense of tragedy is always present. Bodas de Sangre is really a Spanish story, a tragedy imbued with folklore. I’ve always been interested in Lorca’s work, mainly because it deeply, densely and intentionally describes the Andalusian people".
Six years after the premiere of the ballet in the world's most important theaters, Antonio Gades handed the reins to Carlos Saura to make the cinematographic version of the ballet.
Antonio spoke about one of the most exciting scenes in the ballet, the fight at the end between Leonardo and the Groom, which in a way sums up his attitude towards creativity and performance in his art: "That fight is the most difficult thing I’ve done in my whole life. I expect a lot of myself, I expect everything. I want to synthesize that pain, dance like a man who is going to die and is meeting his death with austerity, without panicking or making a scene".
Bodas de Sangre has been staged by a great variety of dance companies, including the Spanish National Ballet, the Cuban National Ballet, the Nancy National Ballet, the ballet at the Opera de Roma and the Compañía Andaluza de Danza. Now, the Antonio Gades Company once again stages one of the best shows of Spanish dance theater, 20th-century avant-garde, a classic of contemporary dance.
The play opens on the morning of the wedding, and the Mother is helping the Groom put on his wedding suit. During the dance, the Mother discovers that the Groom is taking a knife to the wedding. The Mother, tragic, takes it away. The Groom tells the Mother that the knife can be used for more than just killing: it can also be used to cut a bunch of grapes or an imaginary flower that the Groom gives to the Virgin of Madrid. But the Mother, who hears the galloping of a horse and takes it as a bad omen, leaves the Groom's knife in the house.
The morning of the wedding, Leonardo's wife, already dressed to go to the ceremony, anxiously awaits the arrival of her husband. Leonardo, who has arrived late or not at all so many times before. Leonardo's wife, waiting, rocks her son's cradle, and sings, dramatic, a lullaby. Leonardo's wife stops singing: she hears the galloping of a horse, the galloping of the same horse that the Groom's Mother had heard. Enter Leonardo, dour, gloomy, mysterious. Leonardo and his wife dance a dance of jealousy and reproach. Leonardo, in a demonstration of tenderness, rocks his son's cradle. The woman takes the cradle from Leonardo and exits the stage.
Leonardo, dour, gloomy, mysterious, is left alone, thoughtful, gazing out at the distance: conjuring the image of someone. That someone is far away, but Leonardo's imagination erases the distance and his desire materializes: the Bride appears, in petticoats and bodice, and stops getting dressed for the wedding as the dance of hidden love begins. Leonardo embraces the imaginary Bride. The Bride, in her house, caresses her body in unison with Leonardo, as if it were his hands. In this act of imaginary love, the passion between Leonardo and the Bride is so powerful they take their desire for reality, and the two dance a dance full of lyricism and sensuality, beyond time and distance. This is when a woman enters with the wedding dress, and the image of Leonardo fades.
Leonardo goes to the Bride's house. He's the first to arrive after the wedding ceremony. Leonardo watches the wedding party come in and the festivities starts. Long live the bride and groom! The Bride throws her bouquet to the ladies. A pasodoble starts to play. The guests, merry, dance close together, in the traditional village style. The Bride and Groom dance together, Leonardo is alone; his wife dances with a guest. Leonardo seizes the chance to dance with the Bride.
Leonardo and the Bride, carried away by their hidden passion, dance and melt together. Leonardo's wife, jealous, separates her husband from the Bride, and a singer, to distract from the tension, begins to sing. The Bride and Groom dance, cheered on by the wedding party. But the Bride looks at Leonardo and faints.
The Bride is taken from the party. The party continues. But Leonardo slips out. His wife, surprised to see him leave, follows. When the festivities are in full swing Leonardo's wife comes in, and interrupts the party to give the news: Leonardo and the Bride have fled together on the horse. Now, yes. Now, the Mother asks for, searches among the guests for a knife for her son. When she has it, she places it in the Groom's hands, and encourages him to find Leonardo and kill him.
Leonardo appears, on horseback, fleeing. The Bride, hanging on to Leonardo, is still in her wedding dress. They disappear. The Groom appears on horseback. Then four wedding guests, also on horseback. The halt their horses. The consult with the Groom. And off they gallop in search of Leonardo and the Bride.
Leonardo and the Bride appear on horseback. They stop. They hear a horse nearby. It's the horse the Groom rides. The Groom appears. Leonardo and the Groom dismount. The Bride steps between them, but they push her aside. They take out the knives. And in the greatest silence, in the presence of the Bride, Leonardo and the Groom begin to fight; it is a tense struggle, as endless as a memory, as long as death throes. It's not a fight: It's a strange dance of death.
Leonardo plunges the knife into the Groom's stomach, at the same time that the Groom plunges his knife into Leonardo's side. The Bride embraces them both before they fall, severely wounded, to the ground. Leonardo and the Groom die in front of the Bride.
Ballet in six scenes inspired by Bodas de Sangre by Federico García Lorca.
- Choreography and Lighting Design:
- Antonio Gades
- Adaptation for ballet:
- Alfredo Mañas
- Scenic and Costume Design:
- Francisco Nieva
- Emilio De Diego
¡Ay, Mi Sombrero! Perelló Y Monreal
Rumba Felipe Campuzano
World premiere: Rome, Teatro Olímpico, 1974
45 minutes without intermission.