Antonia Mercé y Luque (September 4, 1890 – July 18, 1936).
Best known by her stage name “La Argentina”, she was a Dancer born in Argentina, but raised in Spain, recognized for her great talent, which has made her worthy of being classified as one of the most relevant figures of European dance.
Critics have pointed out that Mercé is a transition point between the Neoclassical Era and the Vanguard in Spanish dance, giving it a new air and promoting its internationalization.
Similarly, she was considered at the time to be a virtuous castanets. He inspired admiration in the world public and especially among the Spaniards. Even Federico García Lorca came to write a poem, named after Praise to Antonia Mercé, La Argentina.
Antonia Mercé y Luque was born on September 4, 1890 in Buenos Aires, in the marriage between the dancer and choreographer of the Teatro Real in Madrid, Manuel Mercé and his wife, Josefa Luque, also a dancer, who were on a long artistic tour of America. After completing the commitments in the Americas, the Mercé-Luque couple returned with their young daughter to Madrid, Spain.
They then decided to open a Dance School in their own house, which Antonia Mercé’s biographers refer to was located in the Lavapiés neighborhood, in a building on Calle del Olmo, where a small plaque can currently be found Commemorative.
From a young age, Antonia showed great artistic talent. Heir to the gift of dance, she developed a natural talent, while also showing great gifts for singing, having a great contralto voice. In 1900, when Antonia turned ten, her father who at the time worked for the Madrid Opera as director of the ballet urged her to enter the Conservatory, as a condition to allow her to learn dance.
Later, she was admitted to the youth ballet of the Teatro Real in Madrid, where she became a student of her father, a fact that according to historians didn´t come to favor the already tense father-daughter relationship.
After studying music and dance for three years, the death of her father, which occurred in 1903, made her define her artistic path. After this loss, Antonia abandoned classical ballet to dedicate herself, in the company of her mother, to the study of the regionalist and popular dances of Spanish culture.
As a teenager and a little scruffy, she began her career serving as a hotloon in some cinematographers. Despite her talent, she would soon take her to leave these stages to set foot in the most prestigious theaters in Madrid, such as that of Príncipe Alfonso or the Kursaal.
She would also come to share the stage with legends of the show such as Pastora Imperio or the Mata Hari. In 1906, at the age of sixteen, she toured Europe. The first country she visited was Portugal, from where she left for Paris, where she had the opportunity to debut the Teatro Le Jardin de Paris, as well as in the Moulan Rouge.
The French capital would give her the opportunity to perform at the Opera House, where she would eventually gain international fame.
Birth as a Dancer
In 1914, she moved to London, where she performed at the Teatro Alhambra, with El Embrujo in Seville, a show that gives her the opportunity to share a scene with important Flemish artists, at which point he falls in love with this art, making it the center of her Dance.
She then began to share the stage with important flamenco musicians, such as the singer Miguel de Molina, the dancer Vicente Escudero and the guitarist Carlos Montoya. At this time she also founded a Spanish dance company, which managed to take to the Opera Comique in Paris, stage where she presented works by Granados, Albéniz and Oscar Esplá, among others.
In 1915, Argentina and her company toured The Americas, where for three years they would visit different countries of this continent.
In 1916, the tour took them to New York, where on February 10 of that year, she debuted with Granados’s play, Green Eye Dance at the Maxine Elliott’s theater. After the tour, Argentina returned triumphantly with her company to Madrid to Madrid , Spain, where she premiered the famous play The Gardens of Aranjuez.
This dancer created with this work a real show that combined scores of the most renowned flamenco musicians, among which can be mentioned Gabriel Fauré, Emmanuel Chabrier and Mauricio Ravel. Likewise, her national and international tour became a classic during the next twenty years of her career.
Final Years and Recognitions
In early 1936, she had the opportunity to perform again at the Comique Opera and the Sala Pleyel, where she performed in the company of the Symphony Orchestra, on an arduous tour that deteriorated her health, presenting certain heart complications, following which the doctors advised her to rest.
Argentina then took refuge in Bayonne, in order to take a few days off in their village of Miraflores. On July 18, 1936, on the return of a Basque dance festival in San Sebastian, according to her biographers, she received the news of Franco’s military uprising. Upon arriving at her home, Argentina took her hand to her head, while asking, “But what’s wrong with me?” minutes before he passed away.
During his artistic life she received several accolades from several nations of the world. In Spain she was appointed lady of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, and received from Manuel Azaña, head of the Spanish Government the Order in the Spanish Theatre.
For its part France came to decorate her as the Legion of Honour, in addition to having a commemorative plaque in the lobby of the Sala Pléyed in Paris. Likewise, important Spanish capitals such as Granada, Madrid and Almería have streets named after them, in her honor.
Image source: flamencasporderecho.com
August 14, 2019