Ruth Page Dancer Makes US-Cuba History
The Cuban National Ballet School Welcomes American Dancer Catherine Conley to its Training Program
(Chicago and Havana) June 14, 2016 – The Cuban National Ballet School (Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba Fernando Alonso), one of the world’s most prominent ballet schools having produced Carlos Acosta, Jose Manuel Carreño and recent Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Gold Medal winner Narciso Medina, today jointly announced with Chicago’s Ruth Page Center for the Arts that it will welcome an American ballet dancer to its school. Catherine Conley, 18, is the first American to receive an official invitation from the Cuban National Ballet School since the normalization of relations, made possible through the efforts of both governments and their desire to continue building cultural bridges between the US and Cuba. She will begin study under the eminent founder and school director Ramona de Saa upon her graduation from high school this summer.
Conley has danced and trained for more than a decade with the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago and the Ruth Page Civic Ballet. She has performed in joint productions with The Cuban National Ballet School and Ruth Page Center in Havana and Chicago as part of an historic, ongoing exchange program between the schools which was initiated by the Ruth Page Center in 2015 and supported by a grant from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through it’s International Connections Fund. Conley has also trained in the summer intensive programs of The Royal Ballet in London, Boston Ballet and American Ballet Theater.
“Catherine simply has beautiful lines and a gracefulness that I noticed immediately,” said Ramona de Saa. “She also brings a highly refined technique that the Ruth Page School is known for. We eagerly await her arrival in Havana and the opportunity to work with her.”
Executive and Artistic Director of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts Venetia Stifler stated, “We are particularly excited about Catherine’s artistic journey and opportunity to study under Ramona de Saa and her outstanding staff of instructors. To also experience life in Cuba at this moment in history as the United States and Cuba begin a new chapter in their relationship is very special. The Ruth Page Center's connection to Cuba began many years ago when Ruth Page, herself, was presented and performed in Havana in 1932. She was described in the Cuban press as “perhaps the best dancer of ballet in the world” as she performed to George Gershwin’s “Prelude in Blue” while the composer himself was in attendance. Our collaboration with the Cuban National Ballet School is an opportunity to carry on the legacy of Ms. Page while forging new cultural and artistic relationships.”
Victor Alexander, Ruth Page School of Dance Director and a former student of Ramona de Saa, played a pivotal role in the development of the relationship. He commented, “Like The Cuban National Ballet School, Ruth Page Center for the Arts and its School of Dance has and will continue to provide our ballet and contemporary dance students with meaningful international experiences, the development of important career relationships and professional pathways.”
About Ruth Page Center for the Arts and Ruth Page School of Dance
An incubator of artistic energy and at the center of Chicago's dance history, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts carries forward the mission and vision of its founder, international dance icon Ruth Page (1899-1991), to be a platform for developing great artists and connecting them with audiences and community. With a primary focus on dance as a critical art form, its programming ensures that children and dance artists have a place to train, work and perform at the highest level of excellence. Under the aegis of The Ruth Page Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the Ruth Page Center has for over 45 years committed its resources to a unique combination of artistic programs that impact over 40,000 children and adults. The Center’s mission not only serves artistic development but also community development. There is no other organization like it in Chicago housed within a single entity with this history, commitment and impact. On the eve of the new millennium, Dance Magazine published its “Timeline of American Ballet in the 20th Century,” in which Ruth Page was noted as being a “vital force in American dance.” As her life in art unfolded, Ruth Page established a record of being an American dance pioneer by creating at the forefront of social, political and artistic issues.
The mission of the Ruth Page School of Dance, housed within the Ruth Page Center for the Arts and led by School Director Victor Alexander, is to offer the highest level of training and personal development to each student, and it is considered to be one of the country’s finest dance education centers. Through the Young Dancer’s Training Program, the School also strives to prepare young dancers for the demands of today’s dance world. The School’s curriculum is grounded in a uniquely American Ballet Technique – functional athleticism coupled with elements of Vagonova, Checchetti, and RDA techniques. Students will train in the School’s dance program before moving on to national and international professional dance companies. Ruth Page’s school embodies her vision of the versatile, well-trained, and exceptional dancer. To learn more about the Ruth Page Center for the Arts and the organization’s additional initiatives such as the Ruth Page Civic Ballet, visit www.ruthpage.org
About Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba Fernando Alonso
With approximately 3,000 students,The Escuela Nacional Ballet de Cuba Fernando Alonso is the largest ballet school in the world and one of the most prestigious. It dates back to the Ballet School of the Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical de La Habana, founded in 1931, where Cuba's prima ballerina, Alicia Alonso, received her earliest training. In 1961, state-sponsored education began and the following year ENB was created as part of the National School of Art. Many of the school's alumni are eminent professionals, recognized in Cuba and internationally. Most of them form part of the National Ballet of Cuba, one of the most important companies in the world.
Silvino da Silva, Director of Marketing & Communications
Ruth Page Center for the Arts
312-337-6543 or 773-909-1656
Patricia Elena Jimenez Cala
Escuela National de Ballet de Cuba Fernando Alonso