La Argentina

(b. 1890)

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(orig. Antonia Mercé; b Buenos Aires, 4 Sept. 1890 (some sources say 1888); d Bayonne, 18 Jul. 1936)

Spanish dancer. Both her parents were professional dancers and she was trained in classical technique by her father, Manuel Mercé, who became ballet master at Madrid's Teatro Real. She made her debut aged 6 and was promoted to premiere danseuse of Madrid Opera at 11. At 14 she abandoned ballet to study Spanish dance with her mother and four years later began her first foreign tour. In 1929 she formed her own company, Ballets Espagnols d'Argentina, for which she choreographed several works, including El amor brujo (mus. de Falla). She recruited her corps de ballet from Paris Opera and her soloists, including Vicente Escudero, from Spain. But the company did not continue for long as solo performances were La Argentina's special forte. Among her world-wide public she was renowned for her dramatic presence, her exceptionally skilled castanet playing, and her revolutionary fusion of traditional forms with contemporary Spanish music. She was considered by many to be the greatest Spanish dancer of all time, the critic André Levinson claiming that she was responsible for the 20th-century renaissance of Spanish dance.

Subjects: Dance.

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