By Helson Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban ballet will forever remember Ana Lobe, a ballerina who has lived outside the island for years. Blessed with exceptional charisma, her impressive physical presence and the sophistication of her techniques made her shine on stage.
HT: What thoughts come to mind when you hear talk about the school of Cuban ballet?
Ana Lobe: What made me a ballerina. The Cuban Ballet School is my foundation. Thanks to it, I was successful both in Cuba and abroad. Today, I am passing on my knowledge, experiences and artistic secrets to the new generations. I turn the slugs into beautiful butterflies.
HT: What career path did you follow after completing your studies?
AL: At the age of 17, I joined Cuba’s National Ballet Company (BNC) and I danced with this company for eight years. I reached the category of soloist officially, but I was given the opportunity to play several leads.
HT: What does Cuba’s National Ballet Company represent in terms of your personal development?
AL: I started my career as a ballerina there. At the time, the BNC offered me the opportunity to take part in two international ballet competitions, where I was a finalist: the 1988 Varna competition, in Bulgaria, and the IBC Jackson, in Mississippi, held in 1990. During this stage of my career, I worked with excellent maestros and principal dancers who were crucial to my professional development.
HT: What was the significance of the so-called “Youth Vanguard” at Cuba’s Pro-Danza Centre for you?
AL: The creation of the Youth Vanguard by Laura Alonso was what saved our generation. The training for matinee shows we underwent on Sundays in Havana was what pushed us along and prevented us from getting stuck in the dance corps. I am infinitely grateful to Laura and all who, next to her, offered their free time to train us. I am infinitely grateful.
AL: She’s been that to me and will continue to be. I respect and admire her. I am particularly grateful to her for preparing me for the role of Odile, in Black Swan, for the Varna competition. In class, especially during my time at the center, she was also always correcting my work.
HT: What do you think ballet lovers remember most fondly about your work on the Cuban stage?
AL: The 1990 International Festival, my first and last Kitri in Don Quijote, at Cuba’s National Theater. I substituted Ana Bottafogo. In less than two weeks, Lazaro Carreño offered me the role and he practically took on the entire choreography all by himself. I had a general rehearsal at the studio with the complete cast and a rehearsal at the theater later, just us and Marle Urbay, without an orchestra, wondering what the tempos were. The show was a success and US critic Ann Barzel described me as a “super Kitri.” Kitri will always be one of my favorite roles.
HT: When did you decide to pursue a career outside Cuba and why?
AL: It was the need to explore new repertoires and work with different choreographers. A ballerina’s career is very short and I didn’t want waste my youth. I am very independent and I like being able to freely choose what to do in my life.
AL: A lot has happened. Artistically, I am happy and satisfied about all of the successes I’ve had in my career. It’s very hard to sum up 25 years in a few sentences. I have always worked very hard to get to where I am. I danced a season with the English National Ballet. When I was with the Mississippi Ballet company, choreographer Luc de Lairess created three pieces for me. I worked in and danced “Paquita” with Fernando Bujones.
In 1994, the Cleveland San Jose Ballet opened its doors to me and, while working with Dennis Nahat, I danced the most varied repertoire of my career. I danced all of the main roles in their classics: Coppelia, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Raymonda…and I danced in all of their choreographies. I was in Balanchine Theme and Variations, Apollo, Who Cares? And others. Mr. Nahat created the role of Anita for me in his acclaimed production Blue Suede Shoes. In 2000, he staged Roland Petit’s Carmen with me in mind for the lead. I danced in that piece when my daughter was only eight months old, it was a very special moment. Dennis Nahat believed in my talent like no one has.
AL: I dreamed about it for many years, but the opportunity never came about. I wanted the fans who saw me grow up to enjoy the new Ana. Unfortunately, that dream was never materialized. I left the stage at the height of my career a month before turning 40. Now I have my own business and I am entirely devoted to teaching.
HT: Tell us about the professional activities you now do.
AL: Two years ago, I opened up my own school, the Ana Lobe Ballet Academy (ALBA, “dawn” in Spanish), which also suggests the dawn of new generations. It offers a cross training program which includes gyrotonic.
I have my students take part in competitions. I have also created a ballet on ice program that helps students develop artistically. I will continue to explore new things and never stop.