LAST EDITED ON 01-07-02 AT 10:52 PM (GMT)
More on Jackson
Loipa Araujo, Ballet Mistress from Cuba and Jackson Juror
© Richard Finkelstein
Loipa Araujo is slender and her oval face animates with a delighted smile from time to time. Sitting in the Edison Walthall Lobby, she provided me with a fascinating overview of ballet education in Cubaís fourteen provinces, where schooling is available to the talented for grades one through five. For those of us who love ballet, itís an impressive sign of cultural priorities. With Araujoís remarkable command, gently accented and musically delivered, the interview was conducted in English.
Araujo has been with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba since 1955. "It has been my life," she remarked simply. "Josefina travels with the company on tour, and I arrange to be available when the company is in Cuba. My role is to teach the company and to coach. Alicia Alonso sometimes asks us about ballets which might be included in the company repertoire."
With her lengthy exposure to ballet talent, Araujo is fully aware talent emerges in an uneven pattern, and, because of that, competitions will also reflect similar ups and downs. She also sagely remarked prize winning is "simple a step in the long way to go in determining a career. It can help, but not everyone has the nature and quality to compete. It is a pressure to maintain the quality and the objective standard, to keep up to the name they have made for themselves."
Loipa Araujo mentioned she had been a competitor in the first Moscow competition in 1969 where she received a silver medal. At Varna in 1969 she was the first Cuban ballerina to win a gold medal. On the other side of competitions, however, her first was 1993 in Moscow, following the Mercosur Ballet Competition in Argentina. She has been a juror in Shanghai and in the last competition in Paris. At the Benois competition, a two-day director dominated affair held every two years, she nominated Alicia Alonso for a Lifetime Achievement Award in Stuttgart.
This is her first competition in Jackson. Because of the relations between Cuba and the United States, a number of documents were required for her visa. The matter of who is permitted to sponsor Cuban visitors also is a matter of special permission.
When I asked about the level of the competitions, Araujo observed once more, "The level of every Concours is something all organizations have to face. They are not going to be all the same. You cannot predict."
Araujo was still dancing when the Ballet Nacional de Cuba toured the United States in the late Seventies. In addition to its justly famous production of Giselle the repertoire included Blood Wedding, Carmen and Tarde en la Siesta. The latter was a fascinating portrait of genteel Cuban life at the turn of the twentieth century. My rather dim memory recalled flowing white lace gowns, aspiring youth and love, and complications on the order of Chekovís Three Sisters. What I remember even then was the degree of individuality within obvious uniform schooling.
Loipa Araujo reinforced that impression when speaking of the difference between 1990 Jackson Grand Prix winner Jose Manuel Carreno and his half-brother Joel, now a leading dancer with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. "We want them to be different, to be able to dance in the most pure style but then to do very modern things like Blood Wedding."
Araujo informed me that Cuba has two major ballet schools with all eight levels, in addition to the first five grades offered in the provinces. Camague is the second center to Havana, and maintains a company of 50-60 dancers in contrast to the Nacional, which has 100. The artistic director in Camague is Rejina Balaguer who succeeded Fernando Alonso. She said that a new school is being finished in Havana, which will house "more talents. There has not been a dormitory of sufficient size.
"Every year in March we have a national ballet schools concours and we also have an international one which attracts dancers from all over Latin America. Some remain to study with us."
Student performances are also frequent, "every three months, and students also appear on TV when there are fairy tales to be performed. The upper level students appear with the company as apprentices." In addition, Araujo says that folk companies abound and there are many small modern ensembles in Havana.
Ballet Nacional de Cuba will host its bi-annual International Dance Festival in Havana October 18-28. There will be dancing in three theatres and our company will be performing Giselle and Don Quixote with international principal dancers in the leading roles. "You should come," and Loipa Araujo smiled with pride when she said, "The last day is the Companyís 54th birthday. It was founded in 1948."
This piece is part of Ballet.co's overall Jackson Competition coverage. The competition runs from the 15th to the 30th June 2002 and we plan daily reports to keep you in touch:
Jackson Reports index page