Flamenco Community Loses a Bright Star

José Molina, Spanish dancer, beloved teacher, dies at 81.

Jose Molina, the charismatic Spanish born dancer who achieved enduring success in America, passed away on January 5, 2018, due to complications from lung cancer.

Just as Billy Elliot discovered his love of dance on the way to his boxing lesson, Jose Molina Quijada, born in Madrid on November 19, 1936, was enrolled in a boxing school which shared space with Spanish dancers. In 1945, the nine year old Molina saw Pilar López and José Greco perform and knew that dance was his future.

His father, Ramon Molina, a Republican who was imprisoned for three years during the Spanish Civil War and then worked in a fish market, was adamantly opposed, but his mother, Carmen Quijada, accepted his ambition on the condition that he pay for his classes by working mornings in the fish market. For six years José earned just enough to pay for classes with Pilar Monterde in neo-Classical Spanish dance, Escuela Bolera, Ballet and Flamenco. Soledad Miralles, dancing in Madrid at the Lope de Vega Theatre, gave Molina his first break. From age sixteen to nineteen, he toured nightclubs throughout Europe and the Middle East as a Flamenco and Classical Spanish dance soloist accompanied by piano and orchestra.

In 1956, he came to New York to audition, successfully, for The Tonight Show, to which he returned as a regular guest and performer, as well as appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Merv Griffin television shows. Jose Greco presented him as a soloist in his internationally touring company for five years before he formed his own company, José Molina Bailes Españoles, in 1961. Molina’s only sibling Ramon played guitar in his company in the early years.

For more than 30 years his company toured North America annually, performing in 49 states and over 400 cities, including engagements at NYC’s Carnegie Hall and with the Boston Pops. His fame led to featured roles in a commercial for Levi Jeans and a music video for Carly Simon.

Molina’s charisma on stage transferred to the classroom where he drew countless students in NYC as well as in residencies across the US, including Miami, FL and Portland, OR. His classes included many he groomed to be professional dancers as well as others for whom flamenco was simply a personal passion. He welcomed everyone, demanding discipline and technical precision while teaching with a unique warmth, charm, and sense of humor.

In 2012 he became a US citizen and maintained dual citizenship.

His sister-in-law Encarna and nieces and nephews survive him in Murcia, Spain. He will be deeply missed by his friends, students and the flamenco community in America.


  1. Jose David Molina Lopez says:

    R.I.P Tito Pepe. Siempre estarás en nuestros corazones.

  2. He was a MAJOR influence on me. I had wanted to become a pro Flamenco dancer because of him. And I did realize that dream. Although I would have loved to have danced in his company, I ended up sticking to singing later on.
    He taught me what discipline was really all about. That preparation is key… I started lessons with him @ 14 years of age. He was giving a four week course at the Luisita Sevilla Dance Academy in Hialeah, FL. (Luisita was married to the famous Ferdie Pacheco, who also passed away recently).
    I knew Jose was famous then as he made appearances with Johnny Carson. And would catch him on TV performing variety specials. I saw him perform at Luisita’s dance recital closing the show & I fell in love! I begged Mom to sign me up for classes with him. Mom could not afford the four week course for $150. So we settled on me entering the class two weeks later for $90. So I was now two weeks behind! Here’s the thing… I caught up to the class in three days! He was impressed…
    We did end up becoming friendly with him, Mom & Luisita. Although the years passed, I carried his lessons with me. Because they all easily applied to life & my ensuing singing career.
    He was a beautiful man. Inside & out. Extremely kind. A wonderful & most amazing teacher. I shall always miss him & his incredible talent… Yours, Elvy Rose

Comments are closed.