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Josefina Mendez delayed obituary (1941-2007)


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 07:25 AM

With the moderator permission, even knowing that several months have passed since her death, and as i just found this site a little while ago, i just wanted to post this note. Josefina Mendez died in Havana 26 January 2007. Josefina Méndez was prima ballerina of the Cuban National Ballet for almost 35 years and, after retiring from the stage in 1996, remained as its ballet mistress, teaching such young dancers as Carlos Acosta who has since been invited as a principal guest artist at the Royal Ballet. In recent years, she largely ran the company after her mentor, the ballet's founder and still director Alicia Alonso, became increasingly blind. Méndez, like Alonso before her, was praised by critics for her blend of classical technique, dramatic depth, freedom of expression and Latin passion, notably in the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC)'s signature two-act Giselle, which she performed in productions worldwide, including as guest artist at the Paris Opéra. On first seeing her perform in the mid-1960s, the dance critic Arnold Haskell described her as "the queen of tragedy" and dubbed her and her three contemporary prima ballerinas at the BNC as "the four jewels of Cuban ballet", a tag they retained ever after.

#2 carbro

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 09:13 AM

Thank you, cubanmiamiboy. Many of us remember Mme Mendez as the forbidding Myrta to Alsonso's Giselle when the company visited New York in the late 1970s.

http://www.cubaheadl...es_in_cuba.html

#3 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 09:37 AM

Thank you, cubanmiamiboy. Many of us remember Mme Mendez as the forbidding Myrta to Alsonso's Giselle when the company visited New York in the late 1970s.

http://www.cubaheadl...es_in_cuba.html


Thanks for acknowledging Mme. Mendez work.

#4 Gina Ness

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 11:05 PM

I met Josefina Mendez when I was a little girl in San Francisco. She and five female dancers came to guest with the school and company of my youth, Ballet Celeste. Our director, Merriem Lanova, had a relationship and connection with Alicia Alonso. Two of the other "Jewels" also guested with us, Loipa Araujo and Aurora Bosh (I remember Aurora was the youngest!) These six lovely young Cuban dancers performed the "Six Princesses", Miss Lanova's version of the Swan Lake Act 3 variations. I was one of the pages of the Princesses. It was a really BIG DEAL that these dancers appeared with our company! I am very sorry to hear of her passing...

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 11:02 PM

I met Josefina Mendez when I was a little girl in San Francisco. She and five female dancers came to guest with the school and company of my youth, Ballet Celeste. Our director, Merriem Lanova, had a relationship and connection with Alicia Alonso. Two of the other "Jewels" also guested with us, Loipa Araujo and Aurora Bosh (I remember Aurora was the youngest!) These six lovely young Cuban dancers performed the "Six Princesses", Miss Lanova's version of the Swan Lake Act 3 variations. I was one of the pages of the Princesses. It was a really BIG DEAL that these dancers appeared with our company! I am very sorry to hear of her passing...

Thank you, Gina for your beautiful recounting...We'll always remember our lovely "Yuyi" fondly...
This is old news, but i wanted to post it anyways...
[size=3]
[font="Courier New"]Havana, Jul 3 (acn) The Legion of Honor Order, which is the highest
decoration granted by the French government to personalities in the
world of Arts and Culture, was granted post-mortem to Cuban ballerina
Josefina Mendez (1941-2007).

French ambassador to Cuba, Marie France Pagnier gave the award to
Victor Gili, the son of departed Josefina Mendez. Gili is a first
dancer of the National Ballet of Cuba, as his mother was.

Josefina Mendez, who died of cancer early this year, has been dubbed
one of the "Four Jewels" of the Cuban classic dance along with Loipa
Araujo, Aurora Bosch and Mirta Pla.

Videos of the most outstanding moments of Mendez' career were screened
during the awarding ceremony such as her performance of "Giselle" along
Etoil Cyril Atanassoff, at the Opera of Paris in 1972.

Known for her classicism, superb technique, and dramatic flair, Mendez
won bronze and silver awards at the Varna International Ballet
Competition, as well as honors in France, Italy, and Brazil.

In addition to her performing career, she founded Cuba's National
School of Arts, where she developed the Cuban technique and coached
most of todayÂs great local dancers.

France's Legion of Honor Order was created by Napoleon Bonaparte back
in the 19th century. It is usually awarded to French personalities;
however, a few personalities of other nationalities have been honored
as well. In Cuba, Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso, filmmaker
Alfredo Guevara, writer Miguel Barnet, and doctor Rodrigo Alvarez
Cambra have been awarded the Order.
[/font][/size]

http://www.mujer.not...mp;Idsubctg=200

#6 Gina Ness

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 11:05 PM

Thank you, cubanmiamiboy for posting this. I just remember how lovely she was...and I was only ten years old! I just realized in reading this that Mirta also danced with us in San Francisco. All four "Jewels"...We were so fortunate to see them when they were so young and just beginning their careers.

#7 uniqe2

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 08:39 PM

Hello,

When were you with Ballet Celeste? I also was a page (Emerald) in "Six Pricesses" with Mrs. Lanova. Our princesses were other members of the company... I always find it interesting to conect with former members!

#8 carbro

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 04:18 PM

:rofl:
Hi, uniqe2, and welcome to BalletTalk.

It's nice to find this kind of connection on BalletTalk, and chances are that with time, you will find former colleagues and friends you've lost touch with. You might start by introducing yourself on our Welcome Page (click New Topic). Also, please feel free to join our sister board,BalletTalk for Dancers (with special forums for dancers of all levels). While memberships overlap to a degree, most members post exclusively on one board or the other.

Please keep in mind, though that both are discussion boards, which is not the same as a chat room. :flowers: This thread is devoted to Josefina Mendez.

#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 05:26 PM

These six lovely young Cuban dancers performed the "Six Princesses", Miss Lanova's version of the Swan Lake Act 3 variations.

I haven't seen you,Gina Ness, lately on the board, but I hope that if you read this you could clarify my curiosity. I know that four of those six ballerinas were Josefina Mendez, Mirta Pla, Aurora Bosh and Loipa Araujo. Who were the other two...?

#10 Gina Ness

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 12:41 AM

Hello, cubanmiamiboy...I wish I could remember. I know I must have an old program around, but they are buried at the moment. When I saw your post, my memory was jogged reading Mirta's name...Hello, uniqe2, and welcome, too!

#11 Gina Ness

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 12:10 PM

I have been trying to remember....For some reason, I am remembering a pair of twin dancers. Were there twin young dancers at this time? When I eventually come across those old programs (I moved last year and things are still in storage), I'll see if I have this one from my youth company.

#12 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 04:47 PM

I have been trying to remember....For some reason, I am remembering a pair of twin dancers. Were there twin young dancers at this time? When I eventually come across those old programs (I moved last year and things are still in storage), I'll see if I have this one from my youth company.

YOUR MEMORY IS A PRODIGY GINA!!!...and thanks a lot for the info, which is completely accurate. There were-(are)-a pair of twins, of course, Margarita and Ramona de Saa. Their fate is a painful and common one among Cuban exiles; once inseparable, their relationship disintegrated as one sister left for the United States while the other embraced the Cuban Revolution. There is the 2004 documentary "Mirror Dance" by Frances McElroy and Maria Teresa Rodriguez which was aired by PBS.
http://www.pbs.org/i...dance/film.html

"Margarita flourished in the system, rising through the ranks from corps de ballet to prima ballerina. Later on she married John White, an American who was recruited by Alicia Alonso to dance with the newly formed National Ballet of Cuba. Ramona married Santiago, one of Fidel Castro's close associates.
Using old family photographs and archival footage of their days as young dancers in Havana, including rare footage of Margarita de Saa performing in the National Ballet of Cuba's "Giselle," "Mirror Dance" introduces viewers to the twin sisters and their worlds. Archival and super 8 footage further suggest Havana in the turbulent '50s and early '60s when the twins were growing up, during their respective courtships and marriages, and through the political events leading up to their dramatic separation.
Following the marriages, the twins began to grow apart. In 1964, concerned about the changing political environment, Margarita, her infant son and husband--now a ballet master--made the painful decision to leave their life, careers and family in Cuba. Ramona remained in Havana. A self-described "revolutionary woman," she was dismayed by her twin's lack of commitment to the Revolution. Believing Margarita was a traitor, Ramona refused to have contact with her. In the forty years since the sisters' separation, Margarita and John opened a small dance academy in Narberth, near Philadelphia, where they remain committed to helping young dancers pursue their dream. Ramona has become Director of the Cuban National Schools of Ballet. It was not until 2000, after being approached by the filmmakers, that Margarita began to think seriously about returning to Cuba.
During the course of the film, Margarita reflects: "When I left Cuba I didn't just lose my biological family, I lost something very special to me--the National Ballet of Cuba. I lost two families." Despite pouring her heart into her work, and trying to create a new ballet family in the United States, memory and loss still persist. In Cuba, the film follows Ramona in her routine as the sole woman who determines the fate of every aspiring dancer in Cuba, and viewer experience the all-encompassing, government endowed National School of Ballet.
Finally, on February 28th, 2004, Margarita, her husband John and daughter Melinda departed for Havana. In a touching scene at Jose Marti Airport, Margarita, Ramona and their brother Jovita are finally reunited".


http://dancerunivers...nt-mirrordance/

#13 Gina Ness

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 06:02 PM

Yes! These names are familiar! Wow! Thank you, Christian!

#14 carbro

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 09:29 PM

Margarita's husband has recently joined the board as "Vanya." He introduces himself here.

#15 Sharon Page

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Posted 30 March 2009 - 03:27 PM

With the moderator permission, even knowing that several months have passed since her death, and as i just found this site a little while ago, i just wanted to post this note. Josefina Mendez died in Havana 26 January 2007. Josefina Méndez was prima ballerina of the Cuban National Ballet for almost 35 years and, after retiring from the stage in 1996, remained as its ballet mistress, teaching such young dancers as Carlos Acosta who has since been invited as a principal guest artist at the Royal Ballet. In recent years, she largely ran the company after her mentor, the ballet's founder and still director Alicia Alonso, became increasingly blind. Méndez, like Alonso before her, was praised by critics for her blend of classical technique, dramatic depth, freedom of expression and Latin passion, notably in the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC)'s signature two-act Giselle, which she performed in productions worldwide, including as guest artist at the Paris Opéra. On first seeing her perform in the mid-1960s, the dance critic Arnold Haskell described her as "the queen of tragedy" and dubbed her and her three contemporary prima ballerinas at the BNC as "the four jewels of Cuban ballet", a tag they retained ever after.


There is additional information about Josephina's life/passing in an article in Dance magazine. Her brother Tony Mendez, cue card boy for David Letterman/Dancer, speaks openly, and shares family photos. He misses his sister dearly. Tony has become a friend through a relationship sprouting from a visit to the Late Show many years ago.
http://newyork.timeo...91/right-on-cue
The photos are in a slide show separate from the special four page content. Look to the left on the page to be
able to view it.


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