Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba (National Ballet School)

Havana, Cuba

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The Alicia Alonso Ballet Academy started in June 1950. The Academy was the workshop where the Cuban Ballet School Teaching Method was forged. It was also involved in spreading Cuban and international dance culture.

Havana’s Alejo Carpentier Elementary Ballet School was set up in 1961 and the National Arts School (ENA) began training the new generations of Cuban artists in 1962 with ballet as its first specialty.

ENA’s first director, Fernando Alonso, trained ballet dancers, laying the groundwork for the establishment of the Cuban Ballet Teaching Method.

The team of professors had on-stage training and comprised of young  ballerinas and ballet dancers, including Aurora Bosch, Josefina Méndez, Mirta Plá, Loipa Araújo, Ramona de Sáa, Margarita de Sáa, Joaquin Banegas, Silvia Marichal, and others.

Since ENA’s first ballet graduation ongoing development and upgrading of the technical, artistic and professional performance of graduates has continued. Graduates have danced with local and international companies, such as the Cuban National Ballet Company, The National Ballet of Canada, American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet of London, English National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, and others.

Some of the great artists trained in the school include Jorge Esquivel, Ofelia González, Rolando Saravia, Amparo Brito, Carlos Acosta, José Manuel Carreño, Lorna Feijoo, Viengsay Valdéz and Osiel Gounoud .

The School’s program includes two specialties: Ballet Dancer-Teacher and Ballet Teacher. A regular exchange program with ballet schools in other countries has been in place since 1975, in which teachers become the main promoters of the Cuban Ballet Teaching Method.

The School hosts two international events: the annual International Ballet Teaching Academies Encounter; and the International Ballet Students Competition, held every two years.

The results achieved by the National Ballet School and the position it has earned demand consistent work by its team of professors, headed by current Directress, Ramona de Saá and her staff, including, Clara Carranco, Esther García, Adria Velázquez, Ana Julia Bermudez, Martha Iris Fernandez and the late professor Mirta Hermida, whose commitment, dedication and love have left their imprint in Cuban culture.

Ramona de Saá, Directress

Ramona de Saá began studying classical ballet after having received a scholarship at the age of eleven along with her sister, Margarita de Saá. She was a student with Fernando and Alicia Alonso, Magda González, Mary Skeaping, Ana Ivanova and Jose Parés at the Alicia Alonso Academy.

She was one of the first ballerinas of the National Ballet of Cuba. With the Cuban National Ballet Company de Saá toured Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, China, Korea, Mongolia and the former Soviet Union. An injury saw her retire as a ballerina in 1966, after 12 successful years as a dancer.

In 1962 she founded the National School of Arts directed by Fernando Alonso. In 1965 she was named directress of the National Ballet School and in 1977 was promoted as a National Adviser with the Arts Teaching Division, currently known as National Arts Schools Center, CNEART.

De Saá is an outstanding ballet mistress, one of the most renowned experts in dance teaching in today's world, she is internationally acknowledged as the designer of today's classical dance teaching system in Cuba. She is a professor with the Cuban National Ballet School, an assistant professor with the Higher Institute for the Arts and a methodologist at the National Arts School Center in Cuba, and the current Director of the Cuban National Ballet School.

She has been the professor and mentor of most of the main male dancers and ballerinas with the Cuban National Ballet company, including, among many others, former principal with American Ballet Theater- and Carlos Acosta –guest principal dancer with the Royal Ballet of the London based in Royal Opera House.

At present she is a promoter and organizer of national and international dance competitions and festivals for ballet students; she has also participated in international events as ballet mistress, jury member and professor in technical assistance programs in different countries.

She has received important awards and recognitions, including Cuba’s highest cultural distinction –the “Felix Varela” Order- granted by the Cuban Council of State; a Diploma from the Nina Novak Ballet, Caracas, Venezuela; the Citizen of Honor Title by the City of Torino, Italy; the Vignale Danza Award in Italy; the Jeonville Festival Best Mistress Award in Brazil; the Grand Prix as Best International Ballet Mistress at the Regio Danza Festival held in Calabria, Italy.

In 2006 Ramona de Sáa Bello received Cuba’s National Dance Award for her entire life’s work.

Lyvan Verdecia Marrero, Student choreographer

Now 18 years old, Marrero has participated in choreographic competitions since he was 12 years old in both the elementary and medium professional levels at the National Ballet School of Cuba. In the medium professional level, he’s created pieces for the school’s students who have participated in international ballet contests, including the Mediterranean Sea International Competition in Italy in 2012. He enjoys the choreographic world, as he feels that innovating and creating movements is part of his life – making dancers explore all their potentials and possibilities.   
 
The following are the works he has created in school: Héroes (Heroes) A piece made during his second-year elementary level, where he won the competition and obtained first place in the category of best performance. D’2, which received mention at the National Ballet Competition in the category of contemporary dance ( second-year medium professional level or seventh-year). ¿Por qué así? (Why so?)This work was created for the Mediterranean Sea International Competition in Italy 2012 (third year medium professional level or eight year).
 
The choreographic piece for AI13 is Raices (Roots) with music from Africa All Stars. The inspiration behind the piece is based on a plant that emerges from its roots, searching for light, reaching vitality and modernity.  

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