I Love Dulce! – a situation comedy

Icon of dance defies description

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

A conversation with Dulce Anaya of St. Nicholas is a street festival in Havana.

Anaya’s expressive inflections enhance her adorable accent. Her reflections are a rollicking journey through history in no sequential order, embellished with anecdotes of famous dancers such as Margot Fonteyn, George Balanchine, her personal mentor Alicia Alonso; husbands she will discuss, husbands she won’t; her first performance of Giselle in 1944 (at the age 12 she was one of Giselle’s “little friends”); yesterday’s antics of her cat, and being “kidnapped” in Munich by actor Richard Harris long before Albus Dumbledorf of Harry Potter fame.  Each telling blurs together in a hodgepodge of timelessness.

Her guileless expressions, emerald green eyes, childlike countenance, animated manner, and diminutive size explain the nickname Dolly.
She elaborates, “In Cuba I was known as Dolly Wohnei. At American Ballet Theatre they  changed it back to Dulce, then at Munich Opera Ballet they did not like Wohnei and wanted me to change that so  I went into the phone book and I picked out Anaya and that is what I’ve been ever since.”

Each moment in her life is as vivid as her execution of the steps in Black Swan Pas de deux. Exuding energy, spontaneity and youthfulness, she tells story after story, hands gesturing gracefully. The listener is engrossed, engaged, confused, amused, impressed, mystified and thoroughly delighted.

Just talking about a trip to the grocery store for Anaya becomes an event worthy of “I love Lucy.” Getting her to relate information in a linear fashion is…impossible. It’s easy to imagine a little angel (or devil) sitting on her shoulder saying in a Ricky Ricardo voice, “Dulce, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do.”

Geri Travis, an Avondale resident, who has performed in six of Anaya’s full length production ballets says, “I adore her. She is amazing, tireless; she patiently puts up with her dancers’ idiocyracies, well, not always, after all we are all drama queens; it is the nature of what we do as performers. But Dulce is the ultimate Prima Ballerina. This dance business doesn’t call for wall flowers! She brings such levity to class and rehearsals. I am always amazed at her knowledge – she knows every step of every ballet – I guess she has danced them all and directed them all. She walks through every step with the children and the professionals that she brings in to do the principal parts. She teaches class all afternoon and into the evenings, then does rehearsals – I cannot imagine how she does that, especially at her age.”

Director of Dulce Anaya School of Ballet for over 33 years, a director of Jacksonville Community Nutcracker Ballet for 21 years, former soloist with American Ballet Theatre, Prima Ballerina of Stutgart Ballet, Hamburg Opera Ballet, Munich Opera Ballet and soloist with what is now the National Ballet of Cuba, Anaya has had 27 dance partners and outlived 13 of them.

Her favorite ballet to perform is Giselle “because of the acting but Ondine really made my reputation. Critics from all over the world came to the German premier – it is a killer, very technical. In Swan Lake I tried to make myself big and tall; people would come backstage and say, “Oh, you are so small…you looked bigger on the stage.” Laughingly Anaya adds, “Mentally, I am tall.”

With her contagious joie de vive one expects Anaya to leap up at any moment, anywhere, and execute multiple entre chat quartes in her high heels. Sue Barry, another dancer who has worked with Anaya, says, “When she wants dancers to rise higher on their toes she yells, “Think stilettos!”

Anaya relates that when auditioning for Mr. Balanchine in 1948 he admired her technique and extensions but thought she was too short and her hips too wide. Her always supportive father observed that Balanchine’s dancers were “too long legged and looked like ostriches.” Later on Mr. Balanchine cast her in Euridyce which she thought scandalous: “That costume was a unitard with what looked like pot holders, one for each breast and the other on the tummy and down. Mr. B said it would be fine…I’d have long hair to cover things up and it would be beautiful. So I did it.”

Anaya is an exacting teacher with professional expectations of her dancers. “What in the world was that? You are not doing that right – do it again!” The repetition frequently becomes innumerable times across the dance floor until students meet her standard. Nothing escapes her – every pointed or unpointed toe, movement of the arm or fingers; every nuance of classical ballet is subject to her discerning criticism. As one dancer observed, “At first I took it personally but then I realized everyone was subject to her criticism and we were all better for it.”

Numerous dancers who trained with her now perform in professional dance companies or are dance educators throughout the world. When asked to describe Anaya, a former student says, “Describe Dulce? Seriously? How can anyone describe Dulce? I mean, I love Dulce…it’s just that, well…she’s just Dulce!”
That seems to be the consensus…there are regular people and then there is Dulce Anaya – who cannot be described so much as

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