Magazine article Dance Magazine

Attitudes

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Attitudes

Article excerpt

Fernando Bujones, dancer, 1955-2005. It was a short life and, in some ways, a life not completely fulfilled, for he died still a man of promise. Bujones' story mingled the good luck that jump-started his career with the ill fortune that cast a pall over his later years as a dancer, leaving unfinished the final chapters of his career as a company director and choreographer.

Born in Miami of Cuban parents, his family moved back to Havana when Fernando was young. After a few years they returned in 1967 to New York. Although coached and taught all his life by his older cousin, Zeida Cecilia Mendez, the young Fernando studied at the School of American Ballet under Andre Eglevsky and, later, Stanley Williams. It was Eglevsky who first mentioned Fernando to me as a fantastic talent, and it was for the Eglevsky Ballet in 1970 that he made his professional debut, partnering Gelsey Kirkland. He made a striking impression in 1972 at the annual School of American Ballet workshop performance, dancing James in La Sylphide, coached by Williams. But instead of joining New York City Ballet as expected, he went to American Ballet Theatre.

From there on his career seemed set. Although entering ABT in the corps de ballet, he very soon became a soloist. In 1974 he won the Gold Medal at the International Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, and that same year he was, at 19, appointed ABT's youngest ever principal. It was also the year that another brilliant young man, the 26-year-old Mikhail Baryshnikov, defected from the Soviet Union in a maelstrom of publicity, and soon after joined ABT. Their two careers became set on an unnecessary and unfortunate collision course.

Probably that course was partly mapped out by Bujones' own, unfortunate but widely quoted remark, not long after the Russian's arrival: "Baryshnikov has the publicity, I have the talent." Not precisely. Baryshnikov left ABT in 1978 to join City Ballet, but returned two years later as artistic director. In the winter of 1985, feeling underused to the point of neglect, Bujones refused a direct order to open an important Metropolitan Opera House season in Romeo and Juliet, leaving Baryshnikov little option but to fire him.

It was sad. There were rights--and wrongs--on both sides. Baryshnikov, not perhaps the most adept man at administration, had handled the politically inept Bujones with insufficient concern for ABT's ultimate good, let alone Bujones' own career. After leaving ABT Bujones guested around the world with enormous but fleeting success. …

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