The centenary celebration of Antonio El Bailarín
If a topic is too grand, you lose words - you don’t know where and how to start. That’s what I’m experiencing right now. As it has been the centenary of his birth on 4th November 1921, I have the topic to write about this week, but the figure is too huge: that’s Antonio 'El Bailarín'.
Rosario y Antonio
Born as Antonio Ruiz Soler in Seville, Antonio wasn’t called El Bailaor but El Bailarín, because he danced not only flamenco but also danza estilizada, escuela bolera and folklórico, all with excellence. Many still praise him as the best in the entire history of Spanish Dance.
He made worldwide fame with his childhood dance partner, Rosario:
Rosario y Antonio (1929)
Studying flamenco, I’d heard of the name of this duo but hadn’t seen how they danced, until I happened to come across them in a classic Hollywood musical film ‘Ziegfeld Girl’. Just wanting to see this epic film of Judy Garland, I didn’t expect Spanish dancers there, not least the legendary Rosario y Antonio. They were so strong but elegant, as if demonstrating how Spanish Dance should be performed. Though their appearance is completely unrelated to the plot, they leave a sensational impression that you can never forget:
Rosario y Antonio in ‘Ziegfeld Girl’ (1941)
Spanish Dance Ambassador
As one of the earliest Spanish dance exports to the American continents, they were in a way cultural ambassadors to transmit the image of Spain and Spanish Dance to the world. Antonio represented Spain in such an artistic way, even after he dissolved his partnership with Rosario in 1952. He continued to be the greatest Spanish dancer inside and outside Spain, not only as a solo artist but also as a partner to fabulous female counterparts including Carmen Rojas and Rosita Segovia. He even danced with an iconic French ballet dancer Ludmila Tchérina in Michael Powell’s film ‘Luna de Miel’ (Honeymoon) in 1959.
Antonio also ignited the flame of flamenco dancing in London through his theatrical shows with Rosario. Many of the first generation of London flamenco, who were enchanted by the art in the 1950s and 1960s, including Ron Hitchins, saw ‘flamenco’ through Antonio. 100 years past, he still remains the inspirational model to many current flamenco artists in Spain, the UK, and numerous other countries. Antonio is what Spanish Dance is all about.
To celebrate his centenary, quite a few dance companies, television, and cultural bodies in Spain have been organising programmes dedicated to him. Let’s embrace this occasion to reappreciate his unfading artistry.
Centenario Antonio Ruiz Soler. Testimonis. Ballet Nacional de España.
Antonio Luiz Soler (Spanish)