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Maria Pages

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Anyone who saw flamenco artist Maria Pages in Riverdance is bound to remember her: her dancing cut like a knife through the bloated heart of that overproduced show. (As I recall, she was supposed to represent "the birth of fire.") Born in Seville in 1963, tall, somewhat raw-boned, she was outstandingly supple, powerful, and precise; "This is an artist whose command is so great," I wrote, "she can afford to fool around." The same freedom and creativity apparently mark the evening-length productions she's choreographed for her own company: in an on-line interview she says that the 1996 El perro Andaluz was created at "the perfect time for me to say that I liked Camaron but I also liked Tom Waits." In the 1998 La tirana she drew connections between flamenco dance and the paintings of Goya, "despite the fact that he wasn't Andalusian and didn't live in the flamenco era." Her newest piece, the one she's bringing here as part of Instituto Cervantes Chicago's Flamenco 2003 festival, is called Flamenco Republic and features nine dancers, including her, and four musicians. She described this work, in contrast to the other two, as "a look inside, an examination of what we have, and where we come from." Though she returns to flamenco's roots in this piece, to the rhythms of the traditional steps and music, there can be nothing hidebound about it: "The expression 'no limits' is integral to art," she says in another on-line interview. "There's no art form with boundaries, so long as the work is taken seriously, genuinely and consciously." Her company stops off here after touring Italy last fall and before traveling to Puerto Rico, China, Israel, and France through next summer. Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 Green, 312-327-2000. Through February 13: Wednesday-Thursday, 7 PM. $30. Note: See Music listings for music performances during the festival. And see Dance listings for Rafael del Carmen this week and David Morales next week, performing in the same festival.

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