The great revolutionary of flamenco dance, the most inspiring, the most daring, has left an impressive legacy. Many consider him the inventor of current Spanish ballet and the most complete dancer to date. For another part of the dance field, he was not such a good dancer but he was very effective. Almost without funds, watching his memorabilia being auctioned off and confined to a wheelchair, he only asked that he not be forgotten. Certainly, there are many reasons to listen to him.

Photo by Antonio for Aurora Pons. IMAE

Foto de Antonio para Aurora Pons. IMAE



Seville, 4-11-1921.

Madrid, 06/02/1996

Parents and siblings

Lola Soler and Paco Ruiz. He had three sisters and two brothers. One of her sisters, nicknamed Pastora Soler, also took up flamenco dance.


Photo from the 2021 exhibition of the Community of Madrid.

Foto de la exposición de 2021 de la Comunidad de Madrid.

Antonio Ruiz Soler wanted to be a dancer at all costs. Not just any one: the best. Life didn’t make it very easy for him.

On November 4, 1921, Antonio Ruiz Soler, Antonio “El Bailarín”, came into the world. He was born in a neighbourhood that has produced great flamenco artists, the Alameda de Hércules, in Seville. La Pompi, El Gloria and Manolo Caracol, among them.

He had 5 siblings and his family was not rich in economic resources. In fact, a couple of sisters had to go live with their aunt.

This difficult situation was not so much a matter of the parents’ lack of work as the fact that the father was an alcoholic and disappeared weeks after squandering the money. Lola, their mother, carried all the weight of raising her children.

A little Antonio Ruiz Soler

Un pequeño Antonio Ruiz Soler. Archivo Comunidad de Madrid.

Antonio Ruiz Soler is a child prodigy

In some letters from the dancer kept by the Community of Madrid, he writes:

“I remember, since I was five years old, that I would be a dancer and that my life was destined for the theater.”

When that little boy told him at home that he wanted to dance, his father would make fun of him by calling him contemptuously “the dancer.” He considered that dancing was “sissy”, as Antonio himself explained in his memoirs.

In spite of everything, his childhood was a happy one. From the age of four, he looked for any opportunity to escape to the streets and chase Juan, an organ grinder who roamed the neighborhoods of Seville. The two teamed up to split the profits from their performances. The boy had such a grace that the tips were very numerous.

For Antonio, returning home with pockets full of coins reinforced his idea of dedicating himself to dance while helping his mother.

His mother, seeing that he was very talented, enrolled him in the academy of the famous master Realito. To pay for the three pesetas a week, he made an agreement with the boy’s aunt to wash and iron his clothes. And all this, in secret. Later on, seeing how quickly the little boy learned everything and his great talent, the teacher would give him free lessons.

Maestro Realito, Manuel Real, was always present in the life of Antonio Ruiz Soler. This teacher was well known among the Andalusian bourgeoisie for, among other things, teaching Sevillanas. Realito was a nationally and internationally recognized flamenco performer. Antonio recalled in their conversations that he was the one who taught him how to dance with sticks (castanets).

Meet your perfect dance partner

At that Realito academy, Antonio met the woman who would be his dance partner for 22 years. Florencia Pérez Padilla, known as Rosario, was a few years older than “El Bailarín”, but Manuel “Realito” brought them together because they were both thin and small. It was the beginning of a world-famous dance couple for 22 years.

They immediately participated in the flamenco group of their teacher, who performed at the Sevillian April Fair, various festivals and private homes. A pianist from that group called them thePetits Sevillanos.

Rosario and Antonio. Community of Madrid Archive

Rosario y Antonio. Archivo Comunidad de Madrid

Community of Madrid Archive They received ovations and applause. Subsequently, in 1929, they performed at the Ibero-American Exhibition in Seville for the Spanish kings, Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia, and changed their artistic name to “Los Chavalillos Sevillanos” on the advice of the man who began to be their representative.

Their debut together was at the Teatro del Duque in Seville in 1928. The following year, they danced before the King and Queen of Spain, Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia, at the Ibero-American Exposition in Seville. The following year, they danced before the King and Queen of Spain, Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia, at the Ibero-American Exposition in Seville.

So I continued to increase his fame and thus the opportunities abroad. His first international gig took place in Belgium, in 1930, on the occasion of the Liège Exhibition (Belgium).

They also expanded their circle of well-known artists. In Madrid, its premiere took place at the Fuencarral Theatre in 33, with the company of La Niña de los Peines and Pepe Pinto, no less. There, those kids would rub shoulders with La Macarrona, Juan Mendoza Rodríguez, Niño de Utrera or Niño Ricardo. Without stopping learning from the great artists they came across and, at the same time, earning money, they arrived in Barcelona in 1936.

Without stopping learning from the great artists they came across and, at the same time, earning money, they arrived in Barcelona in 1936. In the circumstances of life, they would find that the militias occupying their neighborhood forced them to act for free and even in various places in France. Antonio couldn’t get in touch with his family. Rosario, on the other hand, had her mother nearby, as she used to travel with her during her shows. The solution was yet to come…

Heading to America

While in Marseille, they met the variety entrepreneur Marquesi. He offered them to go to work in Argentina and go on a tour of South America. They didn’t think much about it. They set sail for Buenos Aires on a steamship named Florida. A historic meeting took place in the Argentine capital. Antonio Ruiz Soler would enter in the company of Carmen Amaya.The greatest flamenco dancers joined their talents on the stage of the Teatro Maravillas with the show “Las maravillas del Maravillas”.

Antonio, Carmen Amaya and Rosario. Buenos Aires. Foto: Danzaarte.

Antonio, Carmen Amaya y Rosario. Buenos Aires. Foto: Danzaarte.

Rosario and Antonio. Exhibition of the Community of Madrid.

Rosario y Antonio. Exposición de la Comunidad de Madrid.

The dance couple triumphs in Mexico. PHOTO: CADF

La pareja de baile triunfa en México. FOTO: CADF

When Carmen Amaya went on tour, Antonio and Rosario stayed on the headliner and decided to create another piece of their style. It would be the beginning of his own choreographies. It is also when they begin to perform classical dance works and not only flamenco.

After the good reviews, they continued to receive offers of tours throughout South America until they reached Mexico. They were hired at a venue called El Patio for almost a year. Until Marcel Ventura, a well-known representative in the country, gets them a contract to perform for nine months at the Copacabana Casino in Rio de Janeiro. Later, they would land at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

In one of their performances in Rio de Janeiro, they were seen by the director Arturo Toscanini, who proclaimed, with enthusiastic applause, that the dances of Rosario and Antonio were “the soul of Spain”. In addition, it helped them settle in the U.S.

Record Sellouts in U.S. Theaters

The American public loved everything about flamenco. Sabicas on guitar, Carmen Amaya, José Greco and Pilar López, among others, triumphed. With Rosa and Antonio Ruiz Soler, they multiplied their passion for this art and everything related to its dance. They went so far as to dance for President Roosevelt at the White House and posed for Salvador Dalí in New York.

Politicians, Hollywood stars and artists of all kinds wanted to meet the couple who unwittingly represented Spain. It must be remembered that it was the time of the Marshall Plan And everything Spanish was heavily promoted. Metro Goldwin Mayer called them for her first film, “Ziegfeld Girl,” in 1941. Hollywood would continue to request them for more shoots, such as “La cantina de Hollywood” (Hollywood Canteen), “Panamericana” or “Canta otra canción”.

Antonio would say, remembering those years, that he lived that stage with his eyes wide open, soaking up everything. He applied new styles to flamenco, adding to this genre the classics and the style of Fred Astaire, uniting the Bolera School and the Stylized School, and in short, ahead of his time. In the films of this time you can see his own evolution as a dancer, dancer and choreographer.

Despite the publicity, neither of them was a gypsy.

A pesar de la publicidad, ninguno de los dos era gitano.

Lana Turner, Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplin, Ava Gardner… Antonio rubbed shoulders with the best of Hollywood.Although he never hid his homosexuality, he said in his memoirs that he had had a fewAffairwith stars of the time. This affair of her lovers always gave the press a lot to talk about. Even today, the claim that he had an affair with the late Duchess of Alba, Cayetana, and that he could be the father of one of her children, is still kicking. Because of this issue, he and Cayetana went to court.

“Rosario and Antonio” is born

Broadway, Chicago, back to Mexico, never leaving New York. Those kids from Seville changed their name to “Rosario y Antonio” and formed their own dance company with which they traveled all over the world.

This company premiered in 1943 at Carnegie Hall. Antonio staged Corpus Christie in Seville (Albéniz) with moderate success. What was a total revolution was its premiere at the Teatro Bellas Artes in Mexico (1946); Antonio performs for the first time an innovative “Zapateado” with music by Pablo de Sarasate.

Also from this period is the piece “Café de las Chinitas”, with lyrics by Federico García Lorca, or fragments of “El Amor Brujo” and the “Sombreo de Tres Picos”, by Falla, which he later turned into complete ballets.

He stylizes the jota “Viva Navarra”, by Larregla, and the “Zorongo Gitano”, a reinterpretation of this work by Federico García Lorca y La Argentinita, an artist with whom he shared a friendship at that time in the United States.

Zapateado (1946)

It is presented in Mexico for the first time. Antonio, influenced by what he experienced on Broadway and Hollywood, and by the style of Fred Astaire, the dancer created a piece with concepts not used until then. A display of sonic nuances that seek similarity with tap dancing. He caresses the ground, conveying with virtuoso movements the impression that execution requires no effort.

Vicente Escudero, as a consequence of Antonio’s success, begins a peculiar conflict by declaring in the press and radio that he wears badges on his shoes and that his dancing is effeminate.

The Vito (1944)

This dance, “El Vito de Gracia”, is the perfect synchronization of the couple dance of a traditional flamenco style. Rosario and Antonio represented him in the United States in the movie “Hollywood Canteen”.

The Three-Cornered Hat (1958)

“The Three-Cornered Hat” was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev to Manuel de Falla so that, together with the choreography of Leonidas Massine, and with the set and costumes of Pablo Picasso, it would be part of the repertoire of his Ballets Russes. It premiered in 1919.

Antonio Ruiz Soler stylized this piece that is vital for flamenco. He incorporated his own farruca and that first piece that he had already performed in New York (“Suite del Sombrero”, in 1944). The final work was presented for the first time in the city of Granada, covered with an Andalusian air, full of freshness and continuous flamenco winks. The success she obtained encouraged Antonio to make a new international tour with her accompanied by Mariemma.

lalaReturn to Spain

Interviewed about the reason for the delay in returning to Spain, Antonio confessed that he was afraid of not succeeding. Surely, the fact that La Argentinita’s sister and great dancer, Pilar López, was welcomed with open arms upon returning to Spain, encouraged Antonio to take his return seriously.

Antonio and Rosario arrived on the shores of Cadiz in January 1949. Very excited, he moved to Seville to see his mother again after more than a decade without being able to hug her.

A few days later, the dancing couple premiered at the Fontalba Theatre in Madrid. The response was so overwhelming that although they were initially scheduled for 7 performances, they ended up delivering 54. Antonio’s fears of not being well received seemed unfounded…

Le Figaro: When Antonio overflows onto the stage, a voice from "paradise" shouts at him: "Bravo, you have come from heaven"

Theatre Magazine: "Antonio's angel always watches over the elegance of his movements. Antonio has that: angel, a lot of angel"

Alfredo Manqueríe: Antonio is the "first dancer of Spain"

Antonio kisses his mother, Lola Soler. Photo: Community of Madrid.

Antonio besa a su madre, Lola Soler. Foto: Comunidad de Madrid.

In 1950, they began to value the work of the Sevillian with different awards. First, with the Knight’s Cross of Isabella the Catholic, one of the highest distinctions of the time.

By the way, both he and Rosario would continue to appear in movies. For “Niebla y sol”, Antonio created the ballet El hombre y la estrellas. But the film that has gone down in history is “Duende and Mystery of Flamenco”, directed by Edgar Neville in 1953. In it, Antonio dances for the first time the martinete, until then reserved for flamenco singing. In it, Antonio dances for the first time the martinete, until then reserved for flamenco singing. Edgar Neville would explain of when he saw him dance that piece:

“Seldom has anything more beautiful, more exciting been seen.”

Not to be forgotten is “The New Cinderella”, where Antonio shared the screen with Marisol, whom he admired. They performed “The Gypsy Zorongo,” but the film was more famous for rumors about their possible relationship than for its content.

Breakup with Rosario: the reasons

In 52 the inevitable would happen. Once in New York, the characters of Rosario and Antonio clashed very regularly. On one occasion, the fight even led to blows. When the couple returns to Europe, the altercations become more frequent and more virulent.

In the middle of a European tour, performing at the Champs Elysées theatre in Paris, a clash transcends the audience and they have to leave the building escorted by the gendarmes. Antonio would leave several contracts unfulfilled and return to Spain. Only in Italy did he give in and dance with Rosario, although they reached an agreement to dance a part of it alone and only in the final number did they perform together to dance the jota “Viva Navarra”, one of their most important stylized dances. They then move to Barcelona to fulfill other pending commitments. And that’s it.

Rosario would explain this rupture by the different paths that each one wanted to follow. The dancer wouldn’t comment at the time, but he would release some pill after the type “The best dancer is Rosita”, and not his former partner Rosario. And they got along well and would occasionally perform together again.

Rosario and Antonio's anger

Enfado de Rosario y Antonio en París.

In the U.S., the couple had met the critic ofThe New York Times,John Martin. He encouraged Antonio to leave those dances in nightclubs and variety theaters to focus on a career more in line with his great talent, more towards classical dance. Walter Tierry, another well-known critic, but of the newspaper The Boston Herald echoed the same point. Tierry, moreover, put El Bailarín far above Rosario in all artistic aspects. So, between the fact that Rosario wanted to return to pieces from La Argentinita while Antonio was already sailing towards more modern works, and that the press was making a fuss about who was the best, a perfect breeding ground was created for the end of this artistic couple.

The Dancer fulfills his dream and sets up the first great flamenco dance company

Now independent, Antonio continued to create. It was a very prolific time until his retirement in 1979. In the classical field, he worked on works based on scores by great Spanish composers, such as Albéniz, Granados or Turina. The Bolera School continued to be present in dances such as Bolero robado, Boleras de medio paso and Malagueñas boleras.

In flamenco, the dance by cane stood out. Also fandangos por verdiales, caracoles, serranas, tango de Cádiz, taranto, soleares, alegrías and tanguillo.

But, above all, he fulfilled his dream: he set up a great company called “Ballet Español” with 35 dancers, something never seen before. He presented it at the II International Festival of Music and Dance of Granada in 1953. With her he premiered Llanto por Manuel de Falla, Allegro de concierto, Serranos de Véjer, Martinete, Suite de danzas vascas and Suite de Sonatas. Rosita Segovia was the first female dancer.

He triumphed in Granada and triumphed in every city he went to with his Ballet Español. In Paris, the audience at the Empire Theatre carried him on their shoulders.

In 1966, although the dates are not very clear, he performed in the Soviet Union. It was the first time that a Spanish company danced in the country. The trip had a great political impact and, emotionally, he came in love with its dance culture. The best dancers of the USSR and the world, Nureyev and Baryshnikov, admired the art of this Sevillian dancer. In fact, they copied his moves.

Ballet Flamenco by Antonio Ruiz Soler