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Aug 27, 2004

Mary Valdez: dead at 90

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It is with great regret that we note the passing last night of Mary Valdes. Valdes spent the better part of her ninety years as a tireless promoter of the arts–particularly classical dance. In 1995, I had the privilege of reporting a story on the occasion of her receiving a special award from the Belize Arts Council in recognition of her contributions.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

She may be short in stature, but Mary Valdes has gained much greatness and respect for throughout the years. Born on September twenty-first 1914 and the eldest of seven children. This independent, determined and admirable teacher of classical ballet credits her achievements in the arts to one very special lady, her mother Mary Elaine, who gave her ballet lessons as a child. She has passed on what her mother thought her for the past fifty years. Even now at the age of eighty-one, she still continues guiding Belize’s young girls into graceful ballerinas.

And what has been keeping her going all these years, her daughter Marybeth Maestre says it’s the strong love and commitment her mother has for the dance.

Marybeth Maestre, daughter

“Now that we look back we didn’t even think about it. As we are older now, we can see that determination that you’re talking about. Yes, definitely, because as she grew older, she got more and more involved in it instead of stepping back, she just continued and continued and that’s what we saw. But a lot of it we see now. As we go back, we trace with her now all her steps. We see how comfortable it was for her and she just wanted to continue on and keep advancing in it.”

And Valdes says, as long as she is able to, she will continue promoting the art she considers the most beautiful of all arts.

Mary Valdes, 1914-2004

“Well I love the arts and I think ballet is–especially ballet of all the arts, they’re a reflection of God first of all, the divine artist. I feel that ballet is the most uplifting, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, I must say that on this journey of ours–through this often dry and forsaken life of ours–we need beauty. So, I think it is something really necessary for everyone in life.

Over the years, Mary Valdes’s ballets have managed to captivate audiences wherever they were performed. From the 1960 classic, “The Lady of Spain” to the breath taken 1981 romantic and tearful “Giselle”. Valdes has recreated over ten masterpieces; productions she says were challenging but well loved.

Mary Valdes, 1914-2004

“Each one to me was a different challenge. I can?t say I liked any special one. It was always a different cast working with a different cast and there were always–and a newer number of them–divertissements, which mean you, show off the rest of your girls in either group form or solos. So each one was a challenge, I wouldn’t really say that I picked any special one and I loved working with all of them for the challenge.”

Juliet Robinson, Former dancer

“Well I think that Ms. Valdes had a great impact on all her dancers and that was kind of like throughout life. I think not only physically because later on when I was doing a fair amount of sport: vaulting, swimming. My instructors would say have you done this before? And I would say no it’s because I have done ballet. So it was in that physical area. But also I think in probably the emotional in that there was a certain amount of discipline that you were used to even if it was just going somewhere at a particular time; having to practice, confidence to performing on stage. It wasn’t just the physical or the dancing but the whole area. So for us I think she was very important.”

In her biography of Mary Valdez wrote: Valdes has done her best and hopes for the revival of the spirit of appreciating for culture, which seems so alive in the 1940′s and 50′s. Her spirit is still there and she gives it as fully as she can after so many years of dedication to the arts.

Mary Valdes: dead at ninety.

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