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Lupe Serrano: 1930—: Ballerina

Born With Desire To Dance

Lupe Serrano was born on December 7, 1930, in Santiago, Chile. At the time her father, Luis Martinez Serrano—a Spanish-born, Argentine-raised musician—was leading an orchestra on a tour through South America. With him was his French-Mexican wife, Luciana Desfassiaux, whom he had met during an earlier tour through Mexico. Following Serrano's birth, her father fell ill and the young family decided to remain in Chile during his recovery. Nearly from the time she could walk Serrano wanted to dance. She recalled in an interview with the Dictionary of Hispanic Biography that at her third birthday party she insisted on dancing for all the guests. Not long after that impromptu performance, her parents decided to channel their daughter's incessant house-twirling into formal training by enrolling her in a dance school. However, the Chilean educational system was quite poor in the 1930s and it took a while to find a school. The one they finally settled on was not ideal but it offered the four year-old her first structured training in ballet.

At a Glance . . .

Born on December 7, 1930 in Santiago, Chile; daughter of Luis Martinez Serrano and Luciana Desfassiaux; married Kenneth Schermehorn, 1957, (divorced early 1970s); children: Erica and Veronica. Education: Studied with the Mexico City Ballet, mid-1940s; also trained in New York, NY and Santiago, Chile.

Career: American Ballet Theater, principal dancer, prima ballerina, 1953-71; National Academy of Arts in Illinois, assistant director, 1971-74; Pennsylvania Ballet School, director and teacher, 1974-88; Washington (DC) Ballet, artistic associate, 1988–; Juilliard School, New York, NY, teacher, 1997–; also danced with: Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, New York, NY; Ballet Folklorico de Mexico; the Mexico City Ballet; has also taught at American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Cleveland Ballet, Washington Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Rome Opera Ballet, and Ballet Nacional de Mexico.

In 1943 Serrano and her family moved back to her mother's native Mexico City. The move was instrumental for Serrano's dance education. She immediately began training with the Mexico City Ballet. It was difficult at first. "I had terrible habits by then," she told the Dictionary of Hispanic Biography. "But I had been in so many recitals that I had a sense of how to fill the stage." She was also completely in love with dancing and had a burning desire to be the best. Her commitment earned her a place in the company's ballet corps within a year and at 14 she debuted in the company's production of Les Sylphides. She continued dancing with the company while maintaining a heavy schedule of dance lessons and high school classes. Undaunted, she doubled her load at high school in order to finish a year early and thus be free to tour. Meanwhile, her rank in the Mexico City Ballet continued to rise and according to her official biography from the American Ballet Theatre, she eventually "established herself as Mexico's leading ballerina."

At the age of eighteen, Serrano embarked upon a Central American tour with Alicia Alonso, a Cuban prima ballerina and founder of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Alonso is widely considered one of the greatest dancers of the twentieth century and it was a great honor for Serrano to tour with her. When she returned to Mexico City, she joined a brand new ballet company founded by one of her teachers. However, the company was forced by bankruptcy to hang up its pointe shoes and close shop. It upset Serrano but also taught her the realities of dance beyond the bright lights of the stage. "Ballet is not a self-supporting art anywhere in the world," she told the Dictionary of Hispanic Biography. "It has to be sponsored. A person like my ballet teacher, who was devoted to the art of ballet, of course would not have the ability to raise funds."

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographyLupe Serrano: 1930—: Ballerina Biography - Born With Desire To Dance, Leapt From Mexico To New York, Danced With Nureyev, Turned Talent Toward Teaching