Ramiro Guerra, the First One (+ Photos)

Ramiro Guerra, the First One (+ Photos)
Fecha de publicación: 
25 June 2017
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Ramiro Guerra, the pioneer of Cuban modern dance, celebrates his 95^th birthday of an intense life, filled of landmarks in the national culture. He welcomes us in his apartment, on the 14'th floor of a building in Havana.

Being a pioneer is a privilege. And a responsibility as well. Just ask Ramiro Guerra, the unquestionable teacher of Cuban modern dance. The initiator. The founder. The main reference. This Thursday June 29^th he turns 95 years old and he celebrates them with an energy that may raise envy in many.

"I wake up every morning and do some exercises. Then I spend the day watching videos of dance, movies, television. The truth is I am bored of being up here. I would like to go downstairs, hit the streets, talk to people, go to the theater… but I don't dare, things are unsettling, the weather is complicated and I cannot go walking from one place to the other. I have a car, but it’s out of order, I don't know why I cannot fix it. The point is I feel a prisoner here, I feel drowning. And I still have many things to say."

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It’s understandable. Ramiro Guerra lives on the 14^th floor of the building of Infanta and Manglar (a well-known building, because there other important personalities of the Cuban culture living there). The view is beautiful from up there. You can see Havana and you can listen, as in mute, its sounds.

"But the same view every day it’s kind of tiresome – protests the teacher. Have them fix my car so I can go out on the streets again! "

Anyways, in this small apartment an important patrimony is stored. Hundreds of pictures, programme leaflets, sketches of designs, notes, wardrobe… All related with an impressive artistic exercise. From up here can be told large part of the history of dance in Cuba. With the teacher's testimony to begin with. Luckily he has a privilege memory.

"Hear this, I dream a lot. I have wonderful dreams. And I hardly ever have nightmares. That must be thanks to my peace of mind. I remember everything and I keep everything. It would be useful later. And I remember the good things I lived and the bad ones too. Do you know for example that I was not allowed to premiere what I believe is my most important choreography, The Decalogue of Apocalypse? That was in the early 70’s. Those were tough years, of many prejudices. And that play was a serious work, nothing conventional; some people didn't understand it, they thought it was too bold. And they didn't allow me to premiere it at the National Theater. That promised to be big."

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It was a huge fiasco for the Cuban dance, actually. With The Decalogue… Ramiro Guerra was fully in the avant-garde, he broke rules hundreds of years old, and he was going to experience a new relationship between work and public. The National Theater (including its gardens) were going to be the stage of a dance event, a before and after. But that could not be. The effects of the sadly famous “gray five years” period.

Ramiro believes that The Decalogue of the Apocalypse is his best work, but almost all dance specialists believe that it is Suite Yoruba (1960), a piece that put on stage the patrimony of folk dances of African origin. The choreography opened a path, not just for the National Group of Modern Dance, later National Dance (the company Ramiro founded, now Contemporary Dance of Cuba), also for the Folk National Group.

“You ask me now and I don't know from where that interest to go to folk activities came from. The fact is we went. José Massip filmed the entire process. He made a wonderful documentary film, *History of a Ballet*. By the way, I don't have any copy of that movie, perhaps someone may bring it. Then the choreography was taking shape in the rehearsal rooms. And as you can see, it was a success."

Those first years of the Revolution had great activity. Founding years. Ramiro Guerra could put into words some of his ideas. “Don’t go thinking it was easy. We had a hard time. We had to dance on the hard floor at the beginning, the stage came later. I had to instill some discipline into those boys who began, because you already know how Cubans are. But we wanted to work. And there were many new things. It was the beginning of many things."
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The way of the dance, thosewho follow it know it, it’s not a flowery road. "I started too late, at age 18. I studied with Alberto Alonso in the Pro-Art Musical Society. But you needed to be brave. In those years a man studying dancing was not well seen. A girlfriend I had encouraged me. And with the passing of time I began to dance in ballets. Then I left for the United States, where I studied a lot. I had excellent teachers. Imagine, Doris Humphrey, José Limon… But my biggest influence was Martha Graham. On my return, I started from that knowledge to shape a genuinely Cuban dance".

Ramiro Guerra is the keystone of Cuban dance school. He is at the beginning of everything. "Ramiro, Ramiro, Ramiro… My print is everywhere. Not just Contemporary Dance or Folk Dance. In all the companies of Cuba there is a bit of me. I had many students and my relationship with them has always been complex, a love-hatred relationship, but there they are, those are the people who have made the dance in Cuba."

Although now he spends most of his time in his house, the teacher is aware of what happens around him: “I have seen works of George Céspedes which I’ve considered very interesting. I like the shows of Rosario Cárdenas very much. As I said before I watch a lot of videos here. Some friends come visit me and tell me about it".

Ramiro Guerra has lived for the dance: in the stage, in rehearsing rooms, in the classroom, writing books on theory and appreciation ("I know that everybody cannot do that, but for me it’s a need. Perhaps we cannot speak of a Cuban theory of dance, but I have made my contributions with my books")…

Ramiro Guerra lives surrounded by his memories (“do you see that portrait? It’s the picture of my parents’ wedding. I also keep a sheet of the trousseau of that marriage somewhere. My mother knitted it, a true fine work, with the buttonholes for the laces. I have received many awards and diplomas which I keep… "

But Ramiro Guerra is not a man of the past. And not just because of his work is alive, multiplied in many people’s work that learned from him or was inspired by him. But because he keeps all the desires of keep going. Although he spends almost the entire time "prisoner" in that building at the center of Havana.

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