A Tribute to the Late Gilda Navarra

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Former students, colleagues and friends of the late Puerto Rican educator, dancer, choreographer, and actress Gilda Navarra will pay an artistic tribute to the artist on Monday, September 21, at 7:00pm at the Theatre of the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras.

Gilda Navarra, recognized as a pillar of the development of ballet, pantomime, and theater in Puerto Rico, passed away on July 26, 2015, at 94 years old. Navarra, who founded Ballets of San Juan along with her sister Ana García in 1954 and an Actors’ Workshop [Taller de Histriones] in 1971, was also professor of theater arts at the University of Puerto Rico for more than 30 years.

Short Biography (condensed and translated from El Nuevo Día, 26 July 2015): Gilda Navarra, whose real name was Gilda García Daubón, was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, on May 23, 1921. From an early age, she showed interest in the performing arts and her parents supported her desire to develop in this field. At 14 years of age, she received her first classes in ballet and Spanish dance, to which she would later dedicate her life.

In 1944, she moved to New York to specialize in dance at the School of American Ballet. Then she moved to Spain where she studied with the renowned dancer Pilar López. In Spain, she resumed dance classes with teachers such as La Quica, Estampío, and José Greco, whom she had met in New York City. After being a student of such outstanding teachers, in 1947, Navarra was admitted to the Spanish Ballet Company, directed by Pilar López. Because at that time, they were in Pamplona (in the region of Navarra), López, who used to rename each person who entered the group, decided to dub the Puerto Rican dancer as Gilda Navarra.

After six years of studies and performances in Europe, she returned to Puerto Rico in 1950. In 1954, she founded Ballets de San Juan with her sister Ana García. But four years later, her life took a turn when she watched the Mexican mime José Limón and discovered this other vehicle of theatrical physical expression. She then decided to return to New York to study pantomime and mime at the prestigious Actors Studio.

In 1964, she returned to Puerto Rico to share her knowledge. Shortly thereafter, she began to teach classes in the Department of Drama at the University of Puerto Rico and in 1971 and she founded the Actors’ Workshop [Taller de Histriones], through which she promoted contemporary theater on the island. The group presented dozens of pieces on the island and abroad. In the 80s, Navarra was obliged to close the Actors’ Workshop, due to lack of funding.

She also published books such as Cartilla de oficio and Polimnia: Taller de Histriones 1971-1985. [. . .]

[Many thanks to Roselina Rivera for bringing this item to our attention.]

For more information, see http://www.elnuevodia.com/entretenimiento/cultura/nota/fallecemaestraypioneradelballetypantomimagildanavarra-2078583/ and http://www.elnuevodia.com/entretenimiento/cultura/nota/unacelebracionparalamaestragildanavarra-2100914/

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