Arts & Entertainment

Panama’s National Ballet, a seed that sprouted 50 years ago

By Ana de Leon

Panama City, Aug 18 (EFE).- Fifty years after a group of dancers felt the “need” for Panama to have a professional dance company, the Central American country is celebrating the “golden anniversary” of its National Ballet, a “seed” that has “sprouted” thanks to the ongoing efforts of its members.

That is how the executive director of Panama’s National Ballet, Gloria Barrios, a ballerina with a long and broad artistic career who was a member of that original dance group in 1972, described the situation to EFE.

“This whole trajectory of the National Ballet of Panama has sown a seed. Our work has not stayed only within the walls of our company,” she said.

Barrios added that “All these generations of professionals who have been members of the ballet have been founders of schools, directors and maestros of academies.”

“Our seed has sprouted throughout Panamanian society and these schools also participate in many international competitions and have won a great many awards, which are all honors for our country,” she said.

During the ballet’s half century of history, it’s experienced “highs and lows, but we’ve been able to remain for 50 years by being a group of dancers from different generations who have contributed with their work, discipline and constancy, which has resulted in us being able to celebrate this golden anniversary,” Barrios said.

She went on to say that “These 50 years are just the beginning of our next 50.” Currently, the ballet has “a replacement generation, which is going to be tasked with continuing this work, this passion.”

“Our aim is to continue improving each day, offering the best of our work, spreading it more widely in our country to our public, which is very heterogeneous,” she added.

To celebrate the golden anniversary, the National Ballet will perform a classic, one “of the big dreams” of professional companies – “Giselle” – a ballet in two acts that was performed for the first time in France in 1841.

“It’s a ballet with a great deal of technical and artistic rigor. It’s a challenge for the dancers and the company, it’s a very easy story to bring to anyone who comes to see it. It’s almost a soap opera, it’s a story that also comes off equally well nowadays,” she said.

The artist added: “It was a dream that we can finally fulfill on this golden anniversary.”

In Panama, before 1972, ballet was a hobby that was studied “in private academies, which put on performances, and in which a few professional dancers participated, many of whom – at that time – were studying abroad.”

In addition, it was a discipline for women and members of high society, Barrios said, adding that “In my time, we had very few men. We almost always danced with the same fellow.”

“We’ve been able to break those parameters. At first, (parents) didn’t accept that their male children danced ballet and they almost had to hide it,” she emphasized.

Currently, however, the National Ballet has 10 male dancers. Putting on “Giselle” requires 20 male dancers, and so the company will be augmented with members of Panamanian dance academies, she said.

“This is a triumph. And another thing that fills us with pride is that during the presentations the public is very respectful, acknowledges their work, really applauds the work of the men,” she said.

“And that’s very important for our society, changing that mentality, being more open and seeing that dance is not only for women, but also for men. How beautiful it is to see both the feminine and the masculine in dance,” she concluded.

EFE adl/gf/lll/bp

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