Prom 17: BBC Philharmonic/Mena – review

Royal Albert Hall, London

Why are there not more dance proms? The Albert Hall stage may be cramped, but tell that to the Antonio Márquez Company, who took it over for the second half of this concert. While their rhythmically drumming heels and purring castanets competed with the sounds of the BBC Philharmonic under Juanjo Mena, their choreography peppered the rigorous discipline of Spanish classical dance with an unfettered physicality. It was an explosive combination.

Presented with minimal sets but maximum bravura, The Three-Cornered Hat is the story of a flirty miller and his flirtier wife getting one over on a randy, elderly magistrate. Falla's score is a gem, and the orchestra zipped through its fandangos, seguidillas and final jota in solid but sparkling style. Mena's responsive conducting allowed the dancers time to shine – especially Márquez himself, whose solo turn as the miller was a volley of fierce footwork and spinning-top twirls.

Márquez also led off an interpretation of Ravel's Boléro in which each repetition of the tune brought a different combination of dancers to the stage, tracing sinuous, sensuous patterns. Mena urged the instrumental lines out above the noise of stamping feet – including the most cheesily glorious, slidey trombone solo imaginable.

If Márquez's company brought the house down, they did not do it on their own, even if the orchestral works in first half were not quite on the same level of intensity. A lithe performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, emphasising its balletic rather than its dramatic qualities, brought long-breathed wind playing in the slow movement and some dancing from Mena himself as he drove the racing finale home. The evening opened with Joybox, a slender but effective new "entertainment piece" from John McCabe, inspired by the sounds of a Japanese amusement arcade. Built on a relentless but shifting rhythmic chunter, it dies away to the sound of a lonely drum, but not before a high tintinnabulation on glockenspiel has told us that someone has won big.

On BBC iPlayer until Thursday. Broadcast on BBC Four on Friday 2 August.

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Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

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