Prima ballerina Marta García and premier danseur Orlando Salgado in Blood Wedding, choreography by Spaniard Antonio Gades, written in verse and prose by Federico García Lorca. Photo: Archive

IN 1987, prima ballerina Marta García, a solid exponent of the “Cuban school of ballet,” celebrated 30 years of artistic work. Looking at the dates, it is now exactly three decades since that event.

To mark the occasion, the first great interview with the famous dancer was conducted for this paper. This was followed by numerous conversations on various subjects, primarily dance and choreography.

While on the stage Marta was sensitivity, expressiveness and a refined technique, in the tête-à-tête she maintained those qualities, but added a touch of humor.

Marta and another prima ballerina, Maria Elena Llorente, formed part of the generation that arrived at the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) after the “Four Jewels” – Mirta Pla, Josefina Méndez, Loipa Araujo and Aurora Bosch – and when prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso was in full splendor.

This was no obstacle to her successful career, offering brilliant performances, with her effortless turns in the variations, her ample dramatic possibilities, her unique charisma.

Marta García made history in her role as Soledad in Tarde en la Siesta, choreography by Alberto Méndez, with music including various pieces by Ernesto Lecuona, and became a star of the National Ballet of Cuba from her debut in 1973. Photo: Alicia Sanguinetti

Since being promoted to prima ballerina in 1973, she added works of different styles to her repertoire. She moved audiences as Soledad in Tarde en la siesta, a balanced pas de quatre by Alberto Méndez with music by Lecuona, a milestone of Cuban choreography; was a perfect Raymonda; premiered Majísimo, choreographed by Jorge García; offered a memorable Adela in The House of Bernarda Alba, version by Ivan Tenorio; was the sweet Swanilda in Coppelia; shone as Grisi in the Grand Pas de Quatre and as Kitri, in the pas de deux from Don Quixote; and gave it her all as fragile Giselle.

Given her stylistic ductility, choreographers such as José Pares (Bachx11 = 4xA); Hilda Riveros (Canción de cuna para despertar); Gustavo Herrera (Cecilia Valdés) and Antonio Gades (Blood Wedding, in which she played the tormented Bride), trusted her to premiere their pieces in Havana.

Marta was also a guest artist of renowned foreign companies such as the Budapest Opera Theater Ballet and the Fine Arts Ballet of Mexico.

Another aspect of her art was choreography, with titles like Luz de Luna, music by Rachmaninov; L’addio, music by Tchaikovsky; En mi Habana, melodies by Cubans Ignacio Cervantes and Ernesto Lecuona; and most recently Lady Carolina, music by Berlioz, for the Colon Theater Ballet (Argentina), of which she was director (2001-2004), alongside her husband and dance partner, premier danseur Orlando Salgado.

A marvelous surprise during the 23rd Havana International Ballet Festival was the presence on stage of a constellation of Cuban star dancers alongside the sublime Alicia Alonso in Retrato del recuerdo, a reworking of her own choreography Retrato de un vals (1990), with the music of “Vals de la mariposa” by Ernesto Lecuona. Pictured left to right: Orlando Salgado and Marta García, Lázaro Carreño, Alicia, Jorge Vega, Maria Elena Llorente and Osmay Molina. Photo: Nancy Reyes

On July 4, 2001, Marta García decided to bid farewell to the stage as a dancer, after playing the role of Bertha, Giselle’s mother, during a BNC tour of Venezuela.  

In 2005 she settled in Madrid, where she worked as a teacher at the Alicia Alonso Higher Dance Institute, affiliated with the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid; the Centro Scaena, led by Carmen Roche; and taught courses at the María de Ávila Higher Conservatory of Dance.

Marta García’s last stay in Havana was one of joy, unforgettable in many ways, even though she was already ill.

She visited on the occasion of the 24th Havana International Ballet Festival in 2014. Marta and Orlando, both retired, closed the Fernando Alonso in memoriam event, which paid tribute to the celebrated maestro in the year of the centenary of his birth. Following this, Marta provided another treat, launching her autobiographical book Danzar mi vida.

Now she’s gone forever, and there’s nothing left but to return to the title of this piece, taken from the great English critic Arnold Haskell, who coined the term “Four Jewels” of the BNC and would say of her: “Marta García, a mezzo-soprano of dance, an actress of the ballet, expressive from head to toe.”

Cuban prima ballerina Marta García passed away on the morning of Sunday, January 29, in a hospital in Madrid at the age of 68, a victim of lung cancer.

Her friends, the thousands of ballet lovers in Cuba, also pay tribute to her and celebrate her successful career. An ovation and curtain call for Marta García.