“You have to see and hear a lot, it’s integral to learning and growing”.
Antonio was always very proud of the time when he lived and trained as an artist, “a time when each of us found a teacher who taught us what they knew, according to our physique”. And he said that nowadays they all teach the same thing to twenty or thirty students, and there are those who teach more than they know.
“Today there is little talk of teachers, and when someone achieves success, it seems as if it were the most natural thing in the world”.
That’s not the case of Antonio, who always recognized that you won’t achieve anything if you don’t have a good teacher early on. Whenever he had the chance, he’d say that its time to reclaim the word teachers because the word isn’t discredited, but forgotten.
Gades was trained by Pilar López. “She taught me not to seek easy applause, to express inward, to absorb and suffer joy, pain, light, wind. For me, Pilar was everything. Artistically, I’m her son; as a teacher, I think there was and never will be anyone better for a Spanish artist”.
But it wasn’t only Pilar López who made a strong impression; other artists including Vicente Escudero, Carmen Amaya and Alejandro Vega left their mark.
“Vicente taught me the position of the hand. He invented a new aesthetic and was the first to dance with his arms raised”. Before there was Lamparilla and Frasquillo, La Quica’s husband, but according to Gades, we owe that position of the arms raised high above the head to Escudero. It wasn’t done much before, the dancers keeping their hands at waist level in order to pull all the focus to their feet. He always recognized that he had taken good advantage of his learning, the advice never falling on deaf ears.
Another similarity with Escudero was that he also had a great passion for the visual arts and painted small dancing silhouettes.
But the restless spirit of Gades meant that he didn’t limit his learning to one single teacher, but tried to learn something wherever he went. “I learned something from every place I visited: the flamenco of Andalusia, the sardana of Catalonia, the charro dance of Salamanca”. It is the culture of a people, an authentic ritual, a life, a story that the young Gades needed to learn.
I was aware that to break away the traditional system of dance, for example, a farruca, I must first know the dance. I remember that El Gato taught me to dance the farruca, and from his teachings Gades made a monument for the Spanish dance.
He was always aware that dancing demands willpower and the humility to know that, if you dedicate yourself to the art, you have to study intensely, throw yourself into it, and do the best you can. “Even though you always draw inspiration from someone else, you watch and learn”. For Antonio, the flamenco dancers who say they are self-taught lie, and improvisation is a myth. “They improvise with what they have, which is a deck that they play however they want”.
At the end of his life he had learned a lot from others, he said, and others could now learn from him.