Classical ballet

South Florida classical ballet pioneers retire after 55 years

Back-to-school season is in full swing and as many young dancers across the country prepare for another big season of dance training, Miami has started its school year without one of its oldest dance schools. and the most prestigious. Ballet Concerto School founders Martha del Pino and Sonia Diaz announced to their student body in August that they would not open for a 56th season in September. After 55 years arguably one of the highest quality classical ballet schools in Miami, the co-artistic directors are ready to retire. The two octogenarians, del Pino and Diaz have never stopped running the school, with del Pino still teaching until last year and Diaz managing day-to-day operations. The decision came after the two agreed that the time was right to retire.

Retirement is well deserved for these two women, after all, turning 55 is much easier said than done and both deserve to bask in all the remarkable things they have done for the arts in Miami , for the ballet and for the thousands of students who have been there. The doors of Ballet Concerto since 1961. Ballet Concerto is a true Miami institution: Miami’s second oldest ballet school, the first female-led, one of the first Cuban companies in Miami, and the first Hispanic arts institution of the region. Most notably, Ballet Concerto Company, a separate entity established in 1964, was the first professional ballet company in Miami, setting a precedent for classical ballet in the region by staging all of the complete classical ballets and bringing together artists from most extraordinary ballet of the 20th century in South Florida for the first time. Guest artists included Rudolph Nureyev, Carla Fracci, Cynthia Gregory, Natalia Makarova, Ivan Nagy, Gelsey Kirkland and Alexander Godunov, to name a few.

The school has also produced recognizable names among the many students to follow the professional route. The most illustrious of these was Fernando Bujones (1955-2005) who became the first American male dancer to win the gold medal at the 1974 International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. Bujones became a principal dancer at American Ballet Theater at age 19, the youngest man to do so in the company’s history. He then returned to the Ballet Concerto Company as a guest artist and in 1986 gave the world premiere of Narcissus, a ballet choreographed especially for him by Eduardo Recalt, the Company’s third artistic director. Some other notable alumni: Hilda Maria Reverte (Pittsburgh Ballet), Mariana Alvarez (National Ballet of Washington, San Francisco Ballet), Marielena Mencia (International Ballet of Caracas, Bavarian State Ballet), Alina Hernandez (American Ballet Theatre), and Rita Martinez ( Joffrey Ballet). Not to mention the dozens of alumni who have carried on the Ballet Concerto legacy through their own dance schools, both in South Florida and across the country.

Ballet Concerto will be remembered as a key player in the development of arts and culture in South Florida, especially within the Hispanic community. Diaz and del Pino, who left the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, where they danced alongside Alicia Alonso and under the direction of Fernando Alonso, implemented and maintained the rigorous classical program for which Cuban ballet has since become known. No other ballet school taught this method in South Florida until recent years, with the exception of individual teachers, Ballet Concerto was the sole carrier of classical Cuban ballet technique for much of his existence. Along with the late Eduardo Recalt, who joined the Ballet Concerto Company as its third director after defecting in 1967, Diaz and del Pino instilled in their students unparalleled discipline, respect and love for the art form, and above all a sense of family. These women have dedicated their lives to the art of dance and to their students; it was their whole existence, their family. And the same has been reciprocated, as so many students who have passed through the bars of Ballet Concerto consider the school and its principals not just part of their education, but part of their extended family, most obviously through the many second and third generation students who studied under Diaz and del Pino.

In their statement to students and families, the directors expressed their gratitude for giving them the opportunity to share their love for ballet, “Sonia and I are extremely grateful to all the wonderful families who have trusted us for the artistic education of their children throughout the last fifty-five years. We have been very fortunate to do what we love and to share the art of ballet with the generations of students who have passed through our doors. , parents and even grandparents have become our family and we have seen so many of them grow up and start families of their own, and we are very grateful to everyone who has believed in Ballet Concerto Company over the years and have helped the ballet thrive in this community. We could not have done all that we have done without the support of all of the benefactors and those who have served on the Board of Directors. We wish s thank you for giving us so much to be proud of.

There is no question of the void left by the closure of this Miami establishment, especially in the hearts of the three generations who studied and danced at the Ballet Concerto and in the memory of those who witnessed the evolution of the cultural arts. between the 1960s and 1980s, when the school and business were at their peak. Even so, there’s a labor of love and a legacy that no one can match, and for that, Martha del Pino and Sonia Diaz, can rest easy knowing they’ve done something extraordinary. For those of us who lived and learned in the days of Ballet Concerto, their legacy will be a legacy of gratitude for all they did for the arts in South Florida and all they learned, about ballet, about dance, about the arts, about hard work, about resilience and, above all, about love.

Photo credit: Sonia Diaz, Martha del Pino, Eduardo Recalt. Archives of the company Ballet Concerto