I’m very excited to be in Havana preparing to hang an exhibition of photographs I took in the previous months of The Cuban National Ballet, specifically of Prima Ballerina Viengsay Valdés dancing Swan Lake. The exhibition will be in the magnificent Grand Teatro and will coincide with the 25th Festival Internacional de Ballet de la Habana – a world famous festival held every year in Havana celebrating the art of ballet. Pictured at left is Viengsay and myself reviewing images in preparation for the show. The festival (as well as the exhibition) runs from October 28th through November 6th.
Born in Havana, Viengsay Valdés moved at three months to Laos, where her father was the Cuban Ambassador. At age three, her family moved to the Seychelles. At six, she moved back to Havana, Cuba, where her grandmother continued her education.
Viengsay Valdés was born in Havana and she began her ballet training in the Elementary School of Ballet Alejo Carpentier in Havana and she finished at the National School of Art, receiving important awards, including the Gold Medal in the Festival of Dance in Vignale, Italy (1993) and in successive years: Mention, First Prize and the Grand Prix of Ballet in the youth competition sponsored by the Cuban Union of Artists and Writers (UNEAC). In July of 1994 Ms. Valdes graduated from the National School of Art with Diplomat of Dancer- Teacher and the Award Gold Title as best student and then immediately joined Ballet Nacional de Cuba. In 1996 she was promoted Principal Dancer and to Prima Ballerina in 2001.
Ms. Valdes has been awarded the Medal of Distinction of Culture (1999) and the distinguished Medal “Alejo Carpentier” (2003), as well as the Prize for her outstanding Female interpretation (2009) granted by the Cuban Union of Artists and Writers (UNEAC), the Medal Laureate Stamp granted by the National Union of the Culture (2011), Medal of Work for 20 years in the Ballet Nacional de Cuba; Medal “Raul Gomez Garcia” and Special Premium “Lorna Burdsall” for her highlighted career (2015), as well as on several occasions her name has been inscribed in the Book of Honor of the Grand Theater of Havana “Garcia Lorca” for her several outstanding performances..
With the Cuban company, she has performed in important theaters in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa and Australia. Her repertoire includes leading roles in works of the romantic-classical tradition as well as in contemporary works by Cuban and foreign choreographers. She is a true representative of the Cuban ballet school, which combines virtuosity, technique and artistic interpretation.
Ms. Valdes has been a guest artist in several companies around the world, such as the Royal Danish Ballet (Denmark) where she danced the role of Kitri (Don Quixote), in the Oporto Dance Center (Portugal), to The Washington Ballet debut of Marie Anne Holmes Don Quixote version (United States), the National Academy of Donetsk Full length Don Quixote Russian version (Ukraine). She performed “Giselle” with the Ankara Ballet (Turkey). in 2009, her debut at the Mariinsky Theater with the Kirov Ballet in the lead role of Quiteria next to Leonid Sarafanov and in 2011 she was invited for the leading role of Carmen in Carmen’s Suite for closing the XI International Mariinsky Festival in St. Petersburg. She participated in the Youth American Grand Prix Galas (YAGP) 2011 and 2013 at the New York City Center and at David Kotch Theater. She has been invited several times by the Ballet Concert of Puerto Rico as guest artist and also by the government of the Yucatan State of Mexico, as well as she has been invited by the Joburg Ballet of South Africa to perform Swan Lake the lead role Odette / Odile.
She has also participated in many Festivals of Ballet around the globe, such as in Argentina , Germany, Denmark, Canada, South Korea, USA, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Venezuela,Colombia, Portugal, Panama, Puerto Rico, Russia, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Turkey, Tunisia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China, South Africa, among others.
She has received excellent reviews in the national and specialized press, at home and abroad. According to the magazine Dance Europe Viengsay occupies the fourth place among women and the sixth overall in the list of the 100 best dancers in the world for the season 2010-2011. Also she was selected as the best couple in the same year by the American Dance Magazine as the most inspiring pairing with the Russian dancer Ivan Vasiliev at Youth America Gran Prix Gala 2013.