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Vicente Nebrada, 72; Venezuelan Dancer and Choreographer

June 11, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Vicente Nebrada, a renowned choreographer who directed the National Ballet of Caracas, Venezuela, has died. He was 72.

Nebrada, who died May 26 in Caracas of leukemia, was one of the most influential members of Venezuela's first generation of professional ballet dancers that emerged in the 1940s and '50s.

More than 30 companies have performed his choreography, including Ballet Hispanico, the American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Berlin Opera Ballet, the English National Ballet, the Australia Ballet and the Universal Ballet of Korea.

Nebrada was appointed artistic director of the National Ballet of Caracas in 1984, and transformed the company's repertoire with modern choreography that challenged conventions of classical ballet.

Many pieces exalted his country's culture, including "Danza Para Ti," a tribute to Venezuelan pianist and composer Teresa Carreno.

Nebrada's choreography had a strong theatrical component, whether abstract such as "Danza Para Ti" or lyrical, such as "Inez de Castro," about intrigue at the Portuguese court.

Nebrada required his dancers "to be very musical, and perform not only technically, but create characters with a life of their own," as he recently told Caracas newspaper El Nacional.

His versions of classic ballets, including "Swan Lake," "Romeo and Juliet," "The Nutcracker" and "Coppelia," were fundamental to his legacy in Venezuela.

Nebrada began his career in 1946 at the Ballet Nena Coronil. In 1951, he was invited by Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso to dance with the National Ballet of Cuba.

In 1955, he went to Paris to work with Roland Petit.

Nebrada then joined the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and, in 1964, became a principal choreographer for the Harkness Youth Ballet, creating his first dance, "Cain," in 1967 and his first international success, "Percussion for Six Men," in 1969.

Nebrada returned to Venezuela in 1975 and helped found the International Ballet of Caracas with Venezuelan ballerina Zhandra Rodriguez.

The company eventually closed, but it drew international recognition and boosted Nebrada's reputation as a choreographer.

Nebrada lived in Caracas and New York. He is survived by his companion, National Ballet of Caracas associate artistic director Zane Wilson, and two sisters.

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