The dancer, choreographer and Cuban researcher Ramiro Guerra, one of the great masters and theorists of dance in Cuba, died 1 May in Havana, at 96 years of age.
Guerra (Havana, 1922) is recognized as one of the founders of the contemporary dance movement in Cuba. For his life’s work, he received the prestigious national awards for Dance (2000), Artistic Teaching (2006) and Cultural Research (2009).
Founder of the Conjunto de Danza Moderna, then Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, his creative legacy was also in companies such as the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional, the Ballet Nacional (BNC) and the Ballet of Camagüey, and his teaching to many other dance groups and dancers.
Guerra had graduated in Law in 1949 from the University of Havana and was Doctor Honoris Causa at the Universidad de las Artes, ISA.
In addition to being considered the father of contemporary Cuban dance and a pioneer in studies on dance on the island, he is remembered as the choreographer of transcendental works such as Impromptu gallant, Mambí, The Decalogue of the Apocalypse, Anaquillé’s Miracle, Medea and the slavers, Orfeo Antillean, Tiempo de Chimera and Suite Yoruba, among many.
Watch a fragment of the dance Suite Yoruba performed in 1961, choreographed by Ramiro Guerra. Suite Yoruba, with music by Amadeo Roldán, is considered to be Ramiro Guerra’s crowning achievement.
For the documentary produced last year for his 95th birthday, Mi vida la danza, the filmmaker Alina Morante draws on Ramiro Guerra’s memories presenting them just as he recalls them: happy, cheerful, free-flowing and non-linear.
He talks about his introduction to ballet at Pro Arte Musical, after he was taken there by a “girlfriend that I had and who studied with ballet maestroNikolai Yavorsky.”
He recalls that he took his first steps in the world of dance under the guidance of Russian Professor Nina Verchinina, an important figure in Colonel Wassily de Basil’s Ballet Russe, and how with this company he went on a tour of Brazilian cities in 1946, including Río de Janeiro, São Paulo andPernambuco, before heading to the United States.
At this point he talks in depth about his interest in meeting Martha Graham and receiving classes at her Contemporary Dance Center. “I could only afford a week of classes, but in reality, I just wanted Martha to see me dance,” he notes.
Guerra was able to complete a short course, after which he asked the renowned choreographer if the Center offered longer scholarship programs. Graham told him that it didn’t, but that he could attend classes free of charge. “For two years I received classes from the best teacher I have ever had,” although in the documentary he also acknowledges the impact on his development of Alberto Alonso (1917-2008, one of the founders of the National Ballet of Cuba) and Mexican Elena Noriega (creator of Huapango).
Ramiro Guerra also talks about the work of Dr. Isabel Monal, director of the National Theater of Cuba, who “opened the way for me to create the Conjunto Nacional de Danza Moderna” on September 25, 1959, “of which I was a member together with 30 other dancers: 10 Black, 10 White and 10 Mixed-Race. From there emerged Eduardo Rivero, Gerardo Lastra, Luz María Collazo, Eddy Veitía…” (who later became emblematic names on the Cuban dance scene).