BALLET NACIONAL DE CUBA: NATIONAL IDENTITY AND GLOBAL PROJECTIONS Ana María Hernández CUNY, LaGuardia October 28 1948: Ballet Alicia Alonso opens in Havana at the Teatro Auditorium with the collaboration of the Escuela de Ballet of the Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical and a group of dancers from Ballet Theatre (New York) who had gone to Cuba with Alicia. Founding Members were: Fernando Alonso, Director Alberto Alonso: Artistic Director and Premier Danseur Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina Igor Youskevich: Premier Danseur Cuban Dancers: Dulce Wohner, Silvia Mediavilla, Magda González, Ada Zanetti, Karina Blanch, Enrique Martínez, Eduardo Perovani, Eduardo Parera. Visiting Dancers: Melissa Hayden, Barbara Fallis, Paula Lloyd, Cynthis Riseley, Helen Komarova, Arlen Garver, Lilliam de L’Aire, Sally bSeven, Francy Falk, Terry Millie, Ana García, Michael Maule, Royes Fernandez, Gilbert Reed, Sharon O’Brien, Peter Bonura, Socrates Birsky, David Ardourian, Bernanrd Pisarsky (Cabrera 1998, 15) 1948-50. Alicia remains in Cuba organizing the Escuela Cubana de Ballet, as she realizes that a professional company cannot exist without a professional ballet academy, and relations with Pro-Arte deteriorate. Alicia Alonso, on the founding of the Escuela Cubana de Ballet: “I studied with everyone I could, all the great masters. I created my own way of dancing when I returned to Cuba, together with a group of teachers. We got together and developed, with the artistic ideas we had and using me as a model, what is the Cuban School of Ballet, something that agreed with the way we are, with our physique, our way of moving, our way of interpreting music. The Cuban School of Ballet has a technical style which is based on the principles of all the great schools of the world, but the way in which we combine the exercises and the way we later integrate them choreographically already has the stamp of Cuban personality, of the Cuban School of Ballet [...]And our dancing is always airy, it always has an aerial accent, whether it is character or demi-charactère, or whatever it might be, because our popular dances are always very light and airy.” (My translation) Interview, Grand Palais de Paris, July 2008, on the opening of “Don Quixote” for Etés de la Danse http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IebJAfzxMwA&feature=PlayList&p=408F841E24854D 0D&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=19 World-renowned teachers and choreographers taught dancers during the Academy Summer Sessions, among themGeorge Gontcharov (Sadler’s Wells, London), Ivan Kirev and Olga Kireva (Mariinsky, Ptetersburg), Leon Fokine, nephew of Mikhail Fokine, Alexandra Fyodorova (Mariinsky); Mary Skeaping and Phyllis Bedell (Sadler’s Wells), Andre Eglevsky, Nora Kaye and Royes Fernandez (New York). In addition to ballet, the school provided training in modern dance, Spanish dance, folk and character dance, music theory and appreciation, art history, costume history, esthetics, anatomy, dramatic arts (under the direction of Violeta Casals), stage direction, stage design, stage make-up and media production. The integrated curriculum of the Academy was unique in the Americas and provided a blueprint for the ENA (Escuela Nacional de Arte) and the ISA (Instituto Superior de Arte), both created after 1961. (Cabrera 1998, 20). Andre Eglevsky Royes Fernandez in “Giselle” Nora Kaye Alicia Alonso on the global projections of the Escuela Cubana:“We aspire to have Cuba as the place in Spanish-speaking America where dancers can come from the rest of our America to acquire dance training. We dream of becoming a center of ballet in Latin America” This goal was soon accomplished in the 1950’s as many young dancers from the Americas arrived in Cuba, lured by the international recognition of the school and its graduates, and by the thrill of participating in an artistic and historical event of major significance. Among these were Lupe Serrano and Felipe Segura from Mexico; José Parés from Puerto Rico; Vicente Nebreda, Gabriela Henríquez, Tulio de la Rosa and Irma Contreras from Venezuela; Carlota Pereyra, Marta Mahr and Armando Navarro from Argentina, and Víctor Álvarez from Uruguay, to name just a few. (Cabrera 1998, 20-21) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Crr7HWqd70&feature=PlayList&p=408F 841E24854D0D&index=20&playnext=2&playnext_from=PL 1960. Ballet Alicia Alonso receives national endorsement and becomes Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Alonso has stated that classics must evolve, since technical prowess is always in a state of transition and evolution. As any balletomane well knows, dance videos of the great artists from the 60’s and early 70’s often pale in comparison to the 180 degree développés and multiple pirouettes between fouettés that we have come to expect from dancers of top companies such as the Bolshoi, the Mariinsky, the Royal, La Scala, Ballet Nacional and American Ballet Theatre. But aside from purely technical considerations, the melding of ballet and the dramatic arts, particularly a trait of the British School and exhibited in the Royal Ballet productions of Kenneth MacMillan’s ballets (Manon, Mayerling, Romeo and Juliet), have changed modern ballet. Black Swan Variations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBUSlZAirvc [Dudinskaya 1953] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KIqeQHaaBM&feature=fvw [Alonso late 50’s] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypeUwNAxOCA [Valdes 200?] Ballet underwent a renaissance of sorts in the sixties and seventies, when the great stars of the Kirov and Bolshoi—Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Makarova, Godunov—defected to the West and revitalized a tiring art form with amazing technical feats and interpretive brio. These artists inspired an entire generation of dancers and choreographers through the end of the twentieth century. Like her peers, prima ballerina assolutas Margot Fonteyn, Galina Ulanova and Phyllis Spira, Alicia Alonso brought ballet to a segment of the population that had been excluded from it because of their economic and educational backgrounds. But Alonso did even more—she created a technique that allowed non-traditional dancers to attain technical perfection and to express the uniqueness of their heritage in fresh interpretations of the great ballets on the global stage. She thus ushered a second rebirth and transformation of this art form, catapulting it into the twenty-first century with the advent of great Cuban dancers and Cuban-trained Latin American dancers to global companies. We have been watching the fruits of her labors for years. Acosta’s interpretation of Spartacus and the clamoring acclaim accorded to Viengsay Valdes clearly indicate that ballet is no longer an artistic expression for the exclusive enjoyment of the élites. Carlos Acosta’s Spartacus (2008, Bolshoi) Monologue from Act I, in which Spartacus enters the stage in chains: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbbSEs92f2Q [Mukhamedov 1984; Vasiliev 1968] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EL89V0lWoY [Acosta excerpts] Rebellion scene from Act II followed by duel with Crassus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbbSEs92f2Q [7:56: fouettes; Mukhamedov 1984] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPWVzJDG15w [Carlos fouettes 2008] “Muñecos” (1978) Choreography: Alberto Méndez Music: Rembert Egues Dancers: Annette Delgado, Carlos Acosta http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YZ_gmE xTeI Menia Martínez: Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet; partnered Rudolf Nureyev. Xiomara Reyes: American Ballet Theatre Lorena Feijóo: Joffrey Ballet of Chicago Lorna Feijóo: Boston Ballet Cuban-trained Dancers Who Have Starred With International Companies: Fernando Bujones: American Ballet Theatre, Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet,Ballet de la Opera de Paris, Ballet della Scala, Danish Royal Ballet. Artistic Director, Orlando Ballet. Lázaro Carreňo: Houston Ballet, La Scala, Australian Ballet, National Ballet of Canada. Jorge Esquivel: San Francisco Ballet. Carlos Acosta: Houston Ballet, Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet. José Manuel Carreňo: American Ballet Theatre SOURCES Cabrera, Miguel. 1998. Ballet Nacional de Cuba: Medio Siglo de Gloria. La Habana: Ediciones Cuba en el Ballet. 1998. Distinciones y condecoraciones de la primerísima bailarina Alicia Alonso. 1978. La Habana: Museo Numismático del Banco Nacional de Cuba. Gilbert, Jenny. 2008. “Carlos Acosta in Spartacus.” In Carlos Acosta Spartacus. The Bolshoi Ballet. DVD. London, England: Decca Music Group, Limited. Guerra, Ramiro. 1969. Apreciación de la danza. La Habana: U de La Habana. “Interview and rehearsals with Alicia Alonso, Viengsay Valdés and Romel Frómeta”.Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Don Quijote. DVD. Paris: Bel Air Classiques. John, Suki. 2008. “A Revolution in Dance: Técnica Cubana”. Paper read at the International Conference A Changing Cuba in a Changing World.Bildner Center, CUNY Graduate Center, March 12-15. Martin, Randy. 1998. Critical Moves: Dance Studies in Theory and Politics. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP. Martínez, Caridad. 2009. Conversations with author about Escuela Cubana de Ballet And Cuban Technique. New York, N.Y., Fall 2009.