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Great Cuban Ballerinas of the 60's,70's and 80's-( I)MISS JOSEFINA MENDEZ (AKA "YUYI". 1941-2007)


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 06:07 PM

The other day while watching some of my old Cuban ballet clips on YouTube I decided that it’s time already to do this. The Cuban National Ballet had its wide range of the most beautiful, talented and exquisite ballerinas of the times during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Some of this star-like tradition went well into the early 90’s, but way diminished in terms of quantity of brilliant female dancers- (not quality thought). So, I thought that it would be fare to open a thread- (probably just for informational purposes, since not much traffic will be happening due to the scarce knowledge and acknowledgement of this isolated stars, which was the direct result of their non existent international exposure, even some of them being top winners at Varna and adored stars within the island).
So, after this introduction, I will be presenting the dancers, one in each thread, linked with some old videos-(if i'm lucky to find what i want). The quality of those is usually really bad. Some of them look like they are way older, but at least an idea can be drown from them. The music is usually either recorded- (in bad recordings) or alive, which sometimes was even worse, being that the reason that we learned over there how to focus on the dancing completely, props and music becoming less and less an item. This is hard to understand, but it’s how it was- (and it still is). So done with the Intro. Here it goes my first pick, our beloved Miss Josefina Mendez- (RIP).

Josefina Mendez. (1941-2007). Bronze Medal Varna 1964, Silver Medal Varna 1965

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 Opera. 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.

Dear “Yuyi”, we certainly miss you, your truly princess elegance, your total dedication and love to that public that would sleep all night long outside the theatre to get tickets to see your magical dancing. As somebody said, it’s true that you just were preparing to become an angel.

Ladies and gentlemen, here's Miss Josefina Mendez:

As Aurora with Jorge Esquivel, from “Sleeping Beauty”- Act III PDD
http://www.youtube.c...feature=related
http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

As Odette, Swan Lake Act II PDD and Odile, Act III


#2 Natalia

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 07:57 AM

Cubanmiamiboy, thank you for this lovely tribute to an exquisite ballerina. I remember the one-and-only tour of the Cuban National Ballet to my native San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1978 -- how the local press considered Ms. Mendez like the 'daughter' of Mme Alonso, they were so similar in look, facial profiles and style. This was especially so back then, when Mme still looked youthful (dancing CARMEN) and Miss Mendez was in her mature glory. Almost like sisters, more than mother-daughter.

#3 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 10:51 AM

Thanks Natalia for sharing your memories of Miss Mendez. Yes, there was always the talking on how much resemblance she had with Mme. Alonso. http://www.palabranu...s/0702/225a.JPG
Same regal look that we all loved... :thumbsup:

Coming up next, Miss Mirta Pla-(RIP)

#4 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 07:27 PM

[size="3"]Tribute to Josefina Mendez[/size] :bow:


#5 bart

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Posted 20 September 2010 - 05:44 AM

Everyone HAS to see this, if only for the first few seconds of a very tiny Mendez at 3 or 4 ( !!! ) bourreeing beautifully on demipointe. She wears a Pas de Quatre costume and headdress, and I'll bet that was a great ballet for her as an adult, too.

Natallia, you are right. The facial similarities to Alonso are astounding, though Mendez is prettier. The long thin mouth. The bone structure. The aristocratic nose.

The clips from Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake show her in her mid-40s, when technical limitations are clearly getting in the way. But those early (too brief) snippets in Cristian's latest YouTube link are extraordinary. Based on just 2 or so seconds of Pillar of Fire, I wish deeply that I could have seen her in this role. Ditto Coppelia. Alonso was also well-known for both.

I've tended to admire the great Cuban ballerinas rather than respond to them emotionally. Mendez is the first since Alonso who affected me so strongly. I add her to my very small list of Dancers I SERIOUSLY Regret Never Having Seen Dance on Stage (Because I Know I Would Have Loved Them.).

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 20 September 2010 - 08:06 AM

I've tended to admire the great Cuban ballerinas rather than respond to them emotionally. Mendez is the first since Alonso who affected me so strongly. I add her to my very small list of Dancers I SERIOUSLY Regret Never Having Seen Dance on Stage (Because I Know I Would Have Loved Them.).


I'm glad you like the clip, bart. There's a segment on an interview of her from the documentary "Four Jewels" where Mme. Mendez says mischievously that every time she went onstage she felt compelled to bring all sort of tricks, because she felt that by doing that she could contribute with a tiny bit of happiness "to all that marvelous audience who would struggle in long lines, sometimes all night long outside the theater to get tickets to see us..."
Yuyi was a beautiful woman and sensitive human being, the epitome of lady manners and elegance, on and offstage. She NEVER declined to sign a programme or pose for a pic with her fans, always with so much warm.... I miss those characters nowadays.
The next clips are from that documentary..."Four Jewels". Enjoy it!



#7 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 01:43 AM

Some old clips of the late Miss Mendez.

Sleeping Beauty. Rose Adagio


Sleeping Beauty. Aurora's Solo


Sleeping Beauty. Vision Scene.


Sleeping Beauty. Grand PDD.


#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 September 2014 - 05:00 PM

Giselle. Josefina Mendez and Cyril Atanasoff. Paris Opera, 1979.

 



#9 PeggyR

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Posted 28 September 2014 - 05:59 PM

Before watching the latest Giselle clips, I took a look at your Sleeping Beauty posts from 2012.  My first thought was that with her lightness and beautiful line, she would be a good Giselle.  After seeing today’s Giselle clips, I have to agree with Bart’s comment from 2010:  I seriously regret never seeing her live.  Thanks for posting.



#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 September 2014 - 09:38 PM

Before watching the latest Giselle clips, I took a look at your Sleeping Beauty posts from 2012.  My first thought was that with her lightness and beautiful line, she would be a good Giselle.  After seeing today’s Giselle clips, I have to agree with Bart’s comment from 2010:  I seriously regret never seeing her live.  Thanks for posting.

 

I'm glad you liked the clips, Peggy.  Mendez, along with her great generation of dancers, was pivotal in the way ballet took form in my mind.  They really knew how to make magic happen, and they totally nurtured the off stage protocols-(like the stage door fan gatherings).  It was wonderful to hear, within one's circle of friends.."so and so is dancing tonight..!", and the excitement at seeing your favorite-(or not)-dancers' names written outside the theater walls for given performances.  I truly miss it.

From the SB clips, during the last one-(the grand PDD)-there's a fantastic moment, from 4:40 to 4:49  where one can really see the mature Aurora and her prince do that slow promenade with hands extended, as if she's fully acknowledging her whole court as their future queen.




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