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San Antonio Flamenco legend 'El Curro' dies at 79

William Champion died Saturday from cancer

SAN ANTONIO - Known as El Curro, or Young Dandy, Flamenco legend William Champion died Saturday in San Antonio after a fight with cancer. He was 79 years old.

His granddaughter, Annette Flores, remembers Champion for his passion of bringing music and dance to San Antonio. She has continued his legacy in her own life. She's a graduate student in Florida, studying Flamenco and contemporary dance infusion.

"He may not have left us millions of dollars, but he left us with a very strong passion for the arts," Flores said Sunday.

Inside their dance studio, the three women who loved Champion the most talked about old times, flipped through pictures, and listened to a recording of his music. Tears flowed from their eyes, and their hands tapped to the beat of the music.

Flamenco, Flores described, is a dance of the gypsies of Spain.

"But for us, it was a way of life," said Flores.

Flamenco dancing was foreign to San Antonio when Champion introduced it to people. He spent time as a taxi driver, cosmetologist, and medic in the Korean War. But it was his passion for the music that kept him going.

Finally, he got his big break.

When John Wayne was filming his movie, "The Alamo," Champion was tapped to play the music in a now-famous Flamenco scene. A pretty young woman stood off to the side of the set by a tree, explained Champion's daughter, Chayito Champion. Wayne asked who she was. Champion told him it was his wife, Teresa. That's when Chayito said Wayne wanted Teresa in the movie to dance on the table during the Flamenco scene.

"They ran and got the contract," said Chayito. "They signed it right there. And my mom said, 'I'm afraid of heights.' And my father said, 'You want to get out of the courts?'"

It was a life changer for the family.

"My heart hurts. I miss him so much," said Flores. "There are no words to express -- there are no words to express -- how much he meant to me."

The family discovered Champion's cancer just three weeks ago. They said for years, his legs would hurt, and he'd rub them. He thought he had arthritis but cancer had invaded his bones.

"Fifty-six years is a long time to just let go in one day," Teresa said.

Funeral arrangements and a tribute to "El Curro" have not been scheduled.

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