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Antonio Ruiz Soler (1921-1996) is one of the dancers and choreographers who has most influenced the evolution of Spanish dance in the 20th century. On the occasion of 100th anniversary of the birth of the former director of Ballet Nacional de España (1980 to 1983), the public company has designed a programme that includes productions that are loyal to the key original pieces of his career in addition to creations inspired by his style.

“Antonio renewed the dancing style and elevated Spanish dance in addition to being the most versatile dancer, choreographer, and director in history. He had a command of all the disciplines and staged wonderful folklore, stylised dance, escuela bolera and flamenco shows. He acted in and choreographed films both in Spain and in Hollywood. He was a genius, a figure of Spanish dance gifted with a special charisma. Antonio was unique”, BNE director Rubén Olmo stated.

The Ballet Nacional de España will premiere Centenario Antonio Ruiz Soler on 15 and 16 April at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Sevilla. The choreographies by Antonio el Bailarín selected for the show are Sonatas, Zapateado and Fantasía galaica, which represent the height of his talent in three different styles: escuela bolera, stylised flamenco, and stylised folklore.

Although Antonio Ruiz Soler’s choreographies have been performed under all the directorships, Eritaña, El sombrero de tres picos, Fantasía galaica and Sarasate’s Zapateado being the most popular, Sonatas has not been back on the stage in full since it was first put on at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in 1982 and then toured. “I thought it was too rich a piece to be kept away. I wanted it to be included in the Centenary programme as this escuela bolera choreography clearly shows the influence of classical dance technique in Antonio’s style; it has a perfect structure, just like a classical ballet”, Rubén Olmo argues.

“We could not leave out Sarasate’s Zapateado either. It is the solo that made Antonio Ruiz Soler most successful as well as other Spanish dance performers who have danced it after him. It was his mark”, Ballet Nacional de España’s director continues. In the show to be performed in Seville guest principal dancer Francisco Velasco will dance it.

The Centenario Antonio Ruiz Soler show also includes under the title Estampas flamencas, the flamenco palos that Antonio often performed with his company in new choreographies created by Rubén Olmo and Miguel Ángel Corbacho. “Our intention has been to continue the style and aesthetics of Antonio and of 1950s and 60s flamenco, updating the steps. So, we are presenting a Martinete, Zorongo, Taranto and Caracoles to stir up his memory in the audience”. Rubén Olmo particularly highlights the Martinete, choreographed by Miguel Ángel Corbacho. Antonio was the first person to dance this flamenco style, which up till then had only been used in cante [singing], and he was always the one who performed it on stage. The piece to be premiered by the Ballet Nacional de España, featuring 11 dancers, stresses the soberness of male dance in traditional flamenco.

The overview to Antonio’s artistic career is rounded off with the solo Leyenda, a choreography created by Carlos Vilán for Isaac Albéniz’s composition Asturias, which is again an essential piece in Antonio Ruiz Soler’s shows. Carlos Vilán was first artist in María Rosa’s company when in the 1990s Antonio created for her El Rocío, among other choreographies. The maestro’s collaborator in his last years conceived Leyenda in 2016 especially for Esther Jurado, guest principal dancer of the Ballet Nacional de España, which included it in its repertoire.

Antonio’s career in film is not overlooked either, nor are the years he lived between New York and Hollywood with his artistic partner Rosario. Rubén Olmo recreates, together with Miriam Mendoza, Ballet Nacional de España soloist, the pas de deux Vito de gracia which Rosario and Antonio performed in the film Hollywood Canteen in 1944. This way, the programme honours the artist who accompanied him in his early days at Realito academy in Seville, when he was a child and until he set up his own company in 1953.

Fantasía galaica, based on Galician folklore, is the choral piece that closes Centenario Antonio Ruiz Soler. “It’s one of my favourite pieces by Antonio, because I think it’s perfect. A piece like it has not been created since”, Rubén Olmo concludes.

The Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla, conducted by Manuel Coves, will play the compositions by Padre Soler, Ernesto Halffter, Isaac Albéniz, and Pablo Sarasate that make up the programme while the flamenco musicians and cantaores of the Ballet Nacional de España will accompany the dancers on the stage in Estampas flamencas. In addition, soprano Carmen Solís and cantaor Juan José Amador ‘El Perre’ will take part as guest singers.

Costumes and stage design
The staging of the shows Ballet Nacional de España is premiering in Seville is faithful to Antonio’s choreographies. Repetiteur mistresses Maribel Gallardo and Cristina Visús have studied Ballet Nacional de España’s audiovisual archive in order to come as close as possible to the first version Antonio staged.

Most of the choreographies in this show have used the costumes collection of the Ballet Nacional de España. The original costumes that were used in the premiere in the 1980s have been recovered and adapted for the revival of Sonatas and Fantasía galaica. The costumes department researched in the previous productions until they found the costumes that suited the aesthetics applicable to the different phases of Antonio Ruiz Soler’s career. For example, the dancers of Caracoles fit the archetypical flamenco image that is linked to the tourism boom in Spain: polka-dot batas de cola, flowers in the hair, curls on the cheeks and colourful shawls. While the female costumes in El vito are inspired by those used by Carmen Amaya, with a short jacket and a cape skirt reminiscent of a bullfighter’s cape.

In contrast in Leyenda (Asturias), López de Santos designed for Esther Jurado a black lace bata de cola that looks like an evening dress. For Martinete, the same designer created shirts with wide sleeves that are tied up round the waist, copying the style Antonio used at the beginning of his career in the 30s and 40s. For his part, José Antonio Arroyo has dressed Rubén Olmo in a short jacket with fringes on the sleeves to dance Taranto.

Regarding stage design, the general criterium has been to reuse elements and audiovisual material of the designs originally used by Antonio Ruiz Soler in his staging. The arches that represent the palace where Antonio set the Sonatas were borrowed from the Teatro Real. They are from the scenography designed by Daniel Bianco for Las bodas de Fígaro. While the curtain painted with the idealised shield of the halberdiers has been replaced by a projection created by José Maldonado. This dancer and choreographer also designed other audiovisual pieces for Estampas flamencas using the flamenco style of each as a unifying feature.


Learning Project ‘BNE al cole’ in Seville

Before Centenario Antonio Ruiz Soler premieres in Sevilla, the Ballet Nacional de España is giving three educational workshops to children as part of the ‘BNE al cole’ scheme, that started at schools in Madrid and since 2020 has been taken to other Spanish cities.

This time, the workshops in Spanish dance, which are coordinated by repetiteur mistress Maribel Gallardo and the head of educational activities Belén Moreno, are held in cultural associations and civic centres where cultural projects have been organised as tools for social reinsertion. From Sunday, 11th to Tuesday, 13th April, small groups of children aged 8 to 12 will attend this activity at the Centro San Miguel in Barrio del Castillo in Alcalá de Guadaira, the Fundación Alalá in the Polígono Sur in Seville, and at the Centro Cívico Torreblanca Juan Antonio González Caraballo in Seville. The director of the Ballet Nacional de España, Rubén Olmo, will present the workshop on the 12th at the Fundación Alalá.

Participants will also get the interactive leaflet Antonio Ruiz Soler para jóvenes, the second number of the collection #BNEnoscuenta which the Ballet Nacional de España started in 2020. Published with the support of AC/E Acción Cultural Española and the collaboration of Madrid’s Universidad Complutense, it aims at helping the new generations to learn about the life and career of the Sevillian dancer and choreographer Antonio el Bailarín. Through the application for mobile gadgets #BNEnoscuenta, they can watch videos and choreographies by Antonio Ruiz Soler in addition to augmented reality 3D animations.