Monday, October 2, 2023

Legendary flamenco dancer, who worked with Tom Cruise and The Beatles, shares why he's lived in Singapore for 16 years despite not being a PR

PHOTO: YouTube/Max Chernov

OCTOBER 02, 2023


Ever dreamt of meeting The Beatles? Or Tom Cruise?

Antonio Vargas has been graced with the opportunity of working with both.

The world-famous flamenco dancer and teacher, who has lived in Singapore for 16 years, told YouTuber Max Chernov more about his illustrious life and career in an interview video on YouTube on Sept 28.

"[The Beatles] promoter, Harold Fielding, saw me in Spain, brought me to England, and he asked me to sign a seven-year contract to keep the same Spanish company and tour," explained Antonio.

After chatting and getting to know more about each other, The Beatles learned that Antonio was a Spanish dancer and suggested that they should collaborate and perform together.

A few weeks after, Vivian Moynihan, the "chief lady" of the band's multimedia company Apple Corps, called Harold Fielding and told him they wanted Antonio to dance on a Lennon-McCartney special for television.

And Antonio didn't just get the honour of performing with the landmark pop band — he also earned a staggering 45,000 pounds (S$75,198) for it.

Apart from dancing for The Beatles, Antonio also had a few acting gigs as well and was even in Strictly Ballroom, a box-office hit movie.

That was also how he got to work with Hollywood star Tom Cruise in the 90s.

Antonio shared that Tom had been with his wife at the Hollywood Bowl and during a segment where they were showing Strictly Ballroom, Tom stood up and said: "That's the guy I want for my movie."

That movie turned out to be Mission Impossible 2.

Antonio thought that he would only be dancing in the show, but Tom liked him so much that he landed a speaking cameo role in the action spy flick.

And the rest was history. 

He can't be a PR because he's too old

One reason Antonio started living in Singapore was because of his wife, Daphne.

He had been doing a flamenco workshop in Perth when he met six Singaporean women, including Daphne, and she stood out to him because of the huge dragon tattoo on her back.

A little after that, Daphne's friend, Tilly, invited Antonio to Singapore to do another workshop for three weeks and he got the chance to meet and teach Daphne again.

But this wasn't the end of it. Later on, after Antonio had flown to America, Tilly rung him up again and asked if he was willing to do another workshop in Singapore the following year.

But this time around, they weren't able to provide accommodation for Antonio.

Instead, Tilly suggested that Antonio stay with Daphne in her "huge luxury apartment".

"And that's how the relationship started. When I came back that next year, I stayed with her, [she] picked me up every day, took me to the studio, I cooked for her, we talked a lot about flamenco, and that's it, all right, we got involved, I decided to stay," recounted Antonio.

Despite residing here for 16 years with Daphne, Antonio has been unable to become a Permanent Resident (PR) despite applying multiple times.

"They won't give it to me," Antonio told Max bluntly.

"When I arrived here, they told me I was too old. They thought I'd be needing hospitalisation or medication or seeing doctors or whatever."

As of now, Antonio can only be a dependent pass holder.

"So I can come and go as I wish. I can work as well," he explained.

But this also means that he has to go through the hassle of renewing the dependent pass every three years because of its expiry date.

While he can't get a PR status, Antonio, who has resided in multiple countries like Spain, France and England, still enjoys living in Singapore.

Comparing Singapore to the other countries that he has stayed in, Antonio told Max that he finds our little red dot "a lot more peaceful".

"You can relax here, there's no tension and aggravated people going up and down," he shared.

He also loves our multi-racial and multi-cultural environment.

"I love [a] population that integrates amongst Indians, Malays, Singaporeans, English, they all seem to blend very nicely together.

"So when you see the shop houses, restaurants, you realise that they're all there. All the nationalities are there eating a curry, so it's interesting."

Over the past 16 years, Antonio has seen our country grow and change, though some of these are not so savoury.

"There are more cars, more pollution, more noise," he said, adding that there is a never-ending amount of construction and renovations too.

But what he loves is that while Singapore is already a multi-racial and cultural country, we keep evolving to be even more so.

"Slowly, there's been an influx of Spanish tapas restaurants, [there's a] German restaurant in City Hall and also Italian restaurants, plenty of them huh!" shared Antonio.

"And slowly, slowly slowly, they're integrating and Singaporeans are getting into that."

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