Vilma, the one act ballet directed by the illustrious Alicia Alonso with choreography by Eduardo Blanco, aims to give a more human portrayal of a legendary, heroic woman of the Cuban Revolution: Vilma Espín Guillois.
The work, premiered on August 28 in Avellaneda Hall of Havana’s National Theater with superb music by maestro Frank Fernández, offers epic scenes and others full of lyricism in hommage to her beautiful life.
Working on the basis of two sources, Young choreographer Eduardo Blanco assumed the difficult task of reducing such a full life into a single ballet. The first, the script presented to him by (according to show’s program) Isabel Moya, director of the magazine Mujeres, andDébora Castro Espín, daughter of Vilma - the founder of the publication and President of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) until her death on June 18, 2007.
In a brief conversation with Granma International during final rehearsals at the company’s headquarters, Blanco himself stated, “What we are doing is taking the 2007 ICAIC documentary Simpre Vilma to ballet.”
Directed by journalist Rolando Segura, the film is the result of a research project which received the Memoria Viva Prize awarded by the Pablo de la Torriente Center, later seeing another of Vilma’s daughters, Mariela Castro Espín, join the project as an advisor.
The new ballet, composed of three scenes in one act, has a linear structure starting with Vilma’s birth (Santiago de Cuba, April 7, 1930) through to her adulthood with performances from soloists, the entire corps de ballet and entry level National School of Ballet students.
During the rehearsal, Alicia Alonso, the eternal maestra, explained to the young dancers, “It is a very demanding ballet about a historic figure from our homeland and you must take it seriously…It is a very special moment experienced by all Cubans who participated in the Revolution, a very serious and profound moment.”
Afterwards, the perpetual perfectionist, moved on to technique: “…You can’t land like a bomb, you must try to avoid landing with your entire foot, you must do a demi plié, what you are doing is physical laziness…its not pleasant to hear, pom pom pom, that way the public is unconsciously distracted and thinks how heavy those dancers are…and the noise you make makes them forget about the art before them, they miss it, do you understand? We are going to continue with the rehearsal but I don’t want to hear a single sound and every time I hear pom I am going to do this (taps her heel on the stage).
The first scene, from Vilma’s childhood through adolescence, displays, among other aspects her affection for ballet, which she studied from age 15 to 22. The young girl, played by entry level student María Luisa Márquez, moved the audience with her already, beautiful technique and style.
Next to come were student years and involvement in the clandestine struggle, on this occasion interpreted by Coryphée Chanell Cabrera, who performed with grace and company’s typical robust technique.
Prima ballerinaAnette Delgado takes on the role of the beautiful guerrilla fighter in the Sierra Maestra (remember the historic photo in Life magazine), who with lead male dancer Dani Hernández, gifted the public with a truly touching and poetic pas de deux.
The end, after the triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959, depicts the Cuban woman fully immersed in various processes of development and progress in all spheres of society.
The ballet is the company’s first to use Api video media (MAPI), an important technology widely used internationally – replacing the traditional painted set design with 3D scenography.
Responsible for the concept and realization of the MAPI-Video is young visual artist, Mauricio Abad, part of a new generation of creators inspired by the use of modern technologies in their works. One of his most significant pieces is aBADtv: Ya era hora!!!, 2010, which reflects the impact of film and television on peoples’ lives.
A truly exceptional technical team has been selected for the work. The concept and realization of the video featured in the piece are by Alejandro Pérez, at the vanguard of modern film and music video photography.
A few of his most notable works include the 2015 Let me be you, Enrique Iglesias featuring Pitbull video, while in 2014 he premiered Flor pálida, an unforgettable song by“guajiro natural” (country boy) Polo Montañez, interpreted by Marc Anthony, and the multi-Grammy Award winning video Bailando by Enrique Iglesias, Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona.
The ballet Vilma pays tribute to the Cuban heroine on the 85th anniversary of her birth while the premier gala was dedicated to 55 years of the FMC.
The prima ballerina assoluta wrote a note in the program in which she recalls that “Vilma loved classical dance, she understood it, and had a deep connection with it. It was also for this reason that she was our dear friend and a follower and supporter of the National Ballet of Cuba.”