It was a '90s thing, when Catalan dance companies blossomed and Europe gave them a warm, open-armed welcome. Cesc Gelabert, Àngels Margarit, Mal Pelo and Jordi Cortés were born under the influence of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. And we shouldn’t forget the La Fura dels Baus company and stage director Calixto Bieito – radicals and rebels who were able to move audiences forward, and today are some of the best stage artists in the world. They were all raised and trained in Barcelona 25 years ago. But what happened next? Practically nothing. Until new dance, physical theatre and performance companies started to take risks. These are the ones to follow.
Nobody knew a thing about Marcos Morau six years ago, when he was an usher at Mercat de les Flors, Barcelona’s principal house of dance. Then he brought 'Russia' to the stage with his troupe, La Veronal, and the rocket took off. Since then La Veronal hasn’t rested, touring in Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Madrid, London, and more, premiering most of his shows in Barcelona, and even performing at the opening night of Barcelona’s big summer arts festival, the Grec, in 2015. Morau tells stories, with Kieslowski Decalog in mind, through movement and text that is written by company playwright Pablo Gisbert. Morau and La Veronal are the natural heirs of Roger Bernat and La Fura dels Baus’s company, General Electrica. Their energy is similar, and their performance styles are closer to Forsythe than to Pina Bausch. ‘I get bored of everything,’ Morau says. ‘I try to constantly change stimuli. It’s not something premeditated – rather a necessity – but this constant search for new sources is what sparks our imagination, which we then work on from both the dramatic and movement aspect to give the piece the rhythm and energy we’re seeking and consider essential.’
El Conde de Torrefiel
Pablo Gisbert has a parallel project, El Conde de Torrefiel, a theatre company creating the most exciting performances in the city. They have performed at the Kunst festival (Brussels), Temporada Alta (Girona), in Manchester and Paris – irreverent shows with impossible titles such as 'Escenas para una conversación después del visionado de una película de Michael Haneke' ('Scenes for a conversation after the screening of a Michael Haneke film').
Agrupación Señor Serrano
Alex Serrano’s theatre company creates original productions based on stories drawn from contemporary times. They use the richness of innovative and vintage tools to extend the boundaries of their art. They’ve taken works such as 'A House in Asia' and 'Brickman Brando Bubble Boom' to New York, São Paulo and Paris, and in 2015, they won the Venice Biennale Silver Lion award.
Teatre Lliure de Gràcia was growing to such an extent that in 2001 a new theatre was opened on Montjuïc, where the Palacio de la Agricultura was for the 1929 World's Fair. This newer venue has two spaces: the Teatro Fabià Puigserver, with a capacity for nearly 800 spectators, and the Espai Lliure, which can hold about 200 theatre-goers. The bigger space serves as a multipurpose room, and the smaller is ideal for seeing performances close-up.
The Generalitat-funded theatre, designed by Ricard Bofill in a neo-classical style in the late '80s, boasts a vast airy lobby and three fabulous performance spaces. Since taking over the post of artistic director in July 2013, Xavier Albertí has opted for a good mix of classical and contemporary pieces, including works by new writers, divided among a main stage and two smaller stages.
The Teatre Romea was a private theatre when it opened once upon a time in 1863. More than a century later, in 1981, it was taken over by the Generalitat, fulfilling the role of the National Theatre until the actual Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (see above) was created. A new management phase began in 1999 under Grup Focus, and since then the theatre has become a space for contemporary artistic works, with its very own company to boot.
The Tívoli is another of the city's grand centenarians. The original space was inaugurated in 1849, and since 1918 it's been standing proudly in its current residence, boasting a 'neo-rococo' style featuring rich mouldings and lavish golden plant motifs to complement the lush reds of the seats and curtains. These days the theatre is known for its eclectic programme including comedy shows, plays, classical ballet, dance and concerts.
British theatre director Peter Brook is credited with transforming this former flower market into a venue for the performing arts in 1985, when he was looking for a place to stage his legendary production of 'The Mahabharata'. After decades of fairly diffuse programming, the Mercat has finally focused in on national and international contemporary dance, and offers a strong programme that experiments with unusual formats and mixes in new technologies and live music. It also does a good job of supporting emerging dancers.
This space has the ramshackle look of associations for counter-cultural events. The theatre's mission is to support and build the capacity for experimentation, creation, production, exhibition, promotion and dissemination of professional artists. They also work on researching new body language and movement as well as new drama. L’Antic Teatre is an old, recycled space, but it has one of the best interior patios you'll find in the centre of town.
This performing arts festival takes place in the cities of Girona and Salt – one hour by train from Barcelona – during October, November and December. It has become a benchmark event, where you can catch productions by Guy Cassiers, Propeller Theatre, Teatro Uniti, Cheek by Jowl, and Krystian Lupa.
Named after the city's Greek-style amphitheatre (Teatre Grec) on Montjuïc that forms such an integral part of its programming, this is Barcelona's major annual cultural festival. Every July, the festival gathers dozens of shows from around the world for a month of dance, music, theatre and circus. Some theatre performances are in English with Catalan surtitles.