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The 'King of Flamenco' comes to the Rialto

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When Antonio Márquez was a child, he dreamed of becoming a famous bullfighter. But he ended up excelling in another distinctly Spanish discipline also known for its dynamic footwork, though one decidedly less dangerous: traditional flamenco dance.

Marquez, now 38, took up dance at age 12 and joined Spain's National Ballet at 19. In 1995 he formed his own troupe, with which the dancer and choreographer has extensively toured Europe. Now, the so-called "King of Flamenco" is bringing his Compania Espanola on its first tour of the states. The second stop is this weekend in Atlanta. The American tour features six musicians and 17 dancers, including Marquez.

With accolades and awards ranging from the Nureyev Prize to a designation as Spain's Most Esteemed Professional Dancer by the Spanish government, Marquez is known for his sensual and theatrical interpretation of flamenco. He augments the classical gypsy dance tradition -- famous for its rhythmic stomps and claps -- with hints of contemporary influences.

In addition to its appearance at the Rialto, the Compania Espanola de Antonio Marquez is also offering a free family workshop on flamenco dance. Marquez will speak on the history of the dance and offer a demonstration of its technique.

Compania Espanola de Antonio Marquez performs at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1-2 at the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, 80 Forsyth St. $25-$45. 404-651-4727. www.rialtocenter.org. The free family workshop on flamenco dance will be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 2 at the Rialto. Call 404-651-0581 for workshop reservations.

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