Biographies Antonio Gades English

Antonio Gades

Dancer, choreographer, scenarist.

Director of the company Antonio Gadès

I am born in November 1936 near Alicante, at the extreme spit of the Catalan landscape. My family is a family of factory workers. My mother used to work in the shoes industry and my father in the mosaic industry. He was communist and joined the Republicans as volunteer in order to defend Madrid one months before my birth.

I grew up in Madrid and began to work at the age of 11 years old. I have been a groom.I used to be an assistant for a photographer and made some little jobs as well for the ABC ( a Spanish newspaper). While leaving the laboratory, I was going to the newspaper and while leaving the newspaper, I was carrying fruits...this is with the money earned in manipulating the fruits crates that I paid my first dance lessons in an academy which existed there, fortunately. I was ready to try everything and I was trying everything to survive : cyclist, soccer player...

Later, I wanted to become torero as well! I began the dance to escape hunger, nothing else ! So, I can't talk about artistic the time, I used to dance as children do, on the music played by the piano organs which were passing by in the streets. A neighbor noticed me dancing in the street and advised to take lessons. So I went.

After 3 months, I got a contract to dance "I don't know what", some mambos, cabaret dances, that had nothing to do with flamenco.

I was at that time in Santander, then in Barcelona, accompanying a ballerina. It was in 1952. I was 16. Fortunately, someone saw me and recommended me to Pilar Lopez. She called me in Madrid and hired me immediately, making of me, in the following year, the first ballet dancer of her company. I remained with her till 1961, and then, I left for Roma.

My departure for Italy represents another step. I was there to collaborate to choreographies for the Bolero of Ravel created by Anton Dolin...I had learned the classical skills and I brought my experience as a Spanish dancer. Anton Dolin imagined the step and I corrected it to give it character. After that, I participated to the festival of Spolete through the invitation of Gian Carlo Menotti. I created a ballet with Caria Fracci and Mikovitch It was the Prance for a dead infanta and the Altarpiece of Don Christobal. We had there a very good company with whom I made tours in Italy, then I went to create the Sorcerer Love of Falla in the Scala of Milan where I gave classes too. Then I had the opportunity to settle the dances for Carmen Opera, a work that is now familiar to me..I already had to dance a Carmen in the Arenas of Verona in 1957 with Pilar Lopez and it was my real beginning in a ballet...turn the Carmen with Menotti and later with Saura and the dances for the film of Francesco Rosi.

This Italian year over, I went to live in Paris. I did not care about dancing nor choreographies. I took lessons with Mrs Nora and Mrs Tikanova. I we interested with contemporaneous paintings. I was spending my time with friends, good connoisseurs about it, and I met mrs Atlan, Sonia Delaunay, Serge Poliakoff, Hans Hartung.

Jacques Damase thought about a ballet for Spolete. He would have loved integrated works of those different creators but I knew a sentimental crise which made failed the project.

So, I went back to Madrid where I founded my first company. There were two BAILAOR s, 1 bailaora, 1 guitarist, 1 singer and we began our tour in Barcelona, there I obtained a big success in a tabla flamenco called Los Tarantos. This was decisive success. I was now recognized by artists, intellectuals like Juan Miro, Antonio Tapin, Joan Brodda helped me and I got a contract for Madrid and in Madrid, a contract to participate to the worldwide exhibition in New York. Everything have been decided in less than one year between July 1963 and March 1964, where I got back to United States with a company of 15 people.

I understood that the Spanish choreographies had to loose their complex. We hade to be free creators. If the choreographer prepared himself, if he has a deep knowledge of his culture, he has to be able to give the cleaner and purer translation of it. The only problem is a esthetic problem.

I became a dancer by chance.

I like theater, dance but I dislike being on the stage. I prefer the part of the choreographer, the construction, the mechanical work. I don't enjoy the world of artists . I only love the work. And in the work, I search to reach the origin of the man who built himself in working. I spend my life to this relentlessness that justify myself. It is about physical effort , but thought too, intellectual effort without any reference to Gods.

When people said about me that I am an artist, I don't know what to think. All the people who perform on the stage are not artists, and, I prefer to say and introduce myself as a worker. If I awaken emotion, that's great..

It is in the tradition of the flamenco to express the feeling.

The dance went away from what it was to its origin, an expression of a soul state. We used to dance of joy. We used to dance with rage. Mankind has transformed little by little this explosion of energy in pirouettes, jumps, sophisticated figures from which we don't understand the meaning anymore. No matter the why, it is estimated for itself.

Don't see any condemnation of all type of classical dance. More than everything, I enjoy freedom and I want that everyone to be able to express himself as he want. 


If flamenco has to be executed with a certain spontaneity, it does not involve relaxation nor improvisation.
Observe the good dancers ! We noticed that they know perfectly 2 or 3 steps from there they build all their dance.
Those dancers are not in generally large dancers, or wealthy in gestural repertoire. 
They have a poor vocabulary, 2 or 3 figures from tradition that they repeat all their life.
We should take caution as well and not attached this art to a race 
Indeed, gypsies have often a grace, a rhythmical particular sense but all the gypsies of the world don't dance flamenco 
Flamenco is danced in a particular region of Andalusia , Jerez, Cadiz, Sevilla and in those region only.
More, it is danced by gypsies and no-gypsies, gitanos and payos, I am Payo.
And there were good dancers from both side.
A lot of singers too were not gypsies. However, in Jerez, en puerto de Santa Maria, in Corrode, Grenada, the tradition is already weaken.
The Cante comes from Utrera. 
The woman who did the most for flamenco, Pilar Lopez, allowed me to know this region. In Madrid as well, a school was created where came the beat artists of Andalusia but on flamenco, we feel the Castilian influence too...
Vicente Escudero was coming from Valladolid where a lot of gypsies used to live and he was initiated with them. I met him in 1955 with Pilar Lopez but it is in 1963 that I learned to know him the most. With the Argentina, this man wore the village fiestas' flamenco to the theater stage. We could even not talk about Tablao flamenco  because it was about poor people who tried to earn their lives with 2 steps of zapateado de Faruca.


 The Argentina and Vicente Escudero thought that we could do better.

I talked a lot with Vicente. He said that I as a " lardons de oido", that I had the ear lying in wait. He taught me the position of the hand. I certify that I benefited from those conversation and meetings.

Vicente Escudero as a very worthy man and he remained till his death, a kind of chevalier. I loved his arrogance in front of life, his authentic attitude.

Antonio Gades died in 2004 and he remains in peace in CUBA.

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Antonio Gades

Stunning Spanish dancer and choreographer
'Stop, walk, move, narrate' ... Gades, performing in London in 1970, was moving and erotic to watch, making the hardest things look easy. Photo: AP
Recognised as the greatest Spanish male dancer of his generation and an even greater choreographer, Antonio Gades has died of cancer, aged 67. Most dancers only live on in the minds of those who saw them. But three stunning films directed in the 1980s by Carlos Saura show us Gades at his peak. These were Bodas De Sangre (Blood Wedding), Carmen and El Amor Brujo (Love The Magician). 

Gades was a child of war and hunger. His father, a building worker and communist, left home when Antonio was a baby to fight fascism on the Madrid front in the civil war. After the war, the family reunited in Madrid, where Antonio had to leave school, aged 11, to be a messenger boy. Ambitious, he tried boxing, bullfighting, cycling and dancing. 

By chance, dancing in a bar for a few pesetas, he was seen by Pilar López, who ran Spain's leading dance company. She forced him to give up bullfighting ("Maybe you'll be a great bullfighter, but I know you can be a great dancer and if a bull gores you, you'll be neither dancer or bullfighter," she told him) and within a year, aged 16, he was the lead dancer in her company. Gades stayed with López for nine years, concentrating on dancing Spanish classics.

Gades was a man of high principles, great stubbornness and exceptional discipline and rigour in his work. He never took advice from anyone, except perhaps López, who, he said, formed him as a person: "I learned not to be superior to anyone else, but only try to be better than myself." This absence of unhealthy competitiveness and his rigorous dedication to self-improvement allowed him to develop his art.

In the 1960s Gades escaped Franco's Spain. He studied classical ballet with Anton Dolin in Rome and became leading dancer at La Scala, Milan.

He debuted at Covent Garden in 1965. Like a waif, his ribs showing, short and a little curved in the shoulders, on stage he transformed himself. His style was direct: "Stop, walk, move, narrate," he said. He made the hardest things look easy. It was an austere style, without frills and with enormous elegance.

Gades was moving and erotic to watch. "You have to caress the ground," he explained. "Foot-tapping is not percussion. It is the continuation of a feeling."

Through these years of hard work and apprenticeship, Gades was gestating his dance revolution. In 1969 he formed his own ballet company in Paris, introducing Cristina Hoyos, who was to be his stage partner for 20 years.

The revolution was born with El Amor Brujo in 1971 and Bodas De Sangre in 1974, both in Madrid, which he danced and choreographed.

This "fusion" of classical ballet and flamenco gave traditional Spanish dance the scale and technique of grand ballet. He took folk tales, which had been trivialised in popular films under Franco, and squeezed out of them "stories with movement".

In 1975 he dissolved his company in protest against the dictatorship, and only returned to dancing in Cuba two years later at the urging of Alicia Alonso. With her he danced Ad Libitum and Giselle.

Antonio Gades was not just a dance revolutionary, but a political revolutionary. A member of the Spanish Communist party from a young age, he broke with it in 1981, as the result of a Stalinist split.

Orthodox communist to the end, he was politically loyal above all to Cuba. From 1959 until his death Gades was an outspoken supporter of the Cuban revolution. When he and the famous singer Marisol married in 1982, after having their three daughters, it was in Havana with Alicia Alonso and Fidel Castro as sponsors. These two sponsors summed up Gades's life: dance and communism. His ashes will be scattered in Cuba.

With Franco dead, in 1978 he was appointed head of the Spanish National Ballet, but in 1981 was summarily sacked for political reasons. This was a happy event as it transpired, for most of the dancers resigned with him. They formed their own co-operative, which reached world fame on tour and through the Saura films.

Gades's last choreography - though he hardly danced in it himself - was Fuenteovejuna (1994), an adaptation of Lope de Vega's great play celebrating peasant solidarity. He rounded off his career with this cry for social justice expressed in the beauty and depth of dozens moving on stage to his design.

Gades married four times, the singer Marujita Díaz (1964), Pepa Flores (Marisol) in 1982, Daniela Frey in 1988 and Eugenia Eiriz recently. He had two children with the dancer Pilar San Segundo in the late 1960s. He is survived by all his wives and five children.

· Antonio Esteve Ródenas, 'Antonio Gades', dancer and choreographer, born November 16 1936; died July 20 2004

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