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Fernando Bujones

Ballet Artist

 

1955 - 2005
Inducted in 2002

Biography

A world-renowned ballet artist, Miami-born Fernando Bujones (pronounced "boo-HOH-nays) led an extraordinary career that will have a lasting impact on dance in Florida and around the globe. His immense power, technical brilliance and exuberance won him the reputation as the most outstanding male virtuoso ever produced by American ballet.

Bujones (born Fernando Bujones, Jr.) was born in 1955 in Miami, where his Cuban parents were visiting relatives.  Until he was 9 years old, he spent time both in Miami and Havana, where—at the encouragement of his mother, a former dancer—he received his first formal ballet training at age 6.  After his parents divorced, Bujones and his mother settled in Miami in 1964.

By the time he was 9, Bujones's extraordinary gift for ballet was drawing attention.  After taking her son to a performance by a touring company affiliated with the New York City Ballet, Bujones's mother arranged an audition with one of the troop's leaders, Jacques d'Amboise.  Impressed with the youth's obvious talent, d'Amboise recommended Bujones for a full scholarship to New York's School of American Ballet which soon was granted.

At age 10, Bujones moved to New York and began training with the school's prime ballet artists Andre Eglevsky and Stanley Williams, who soon recognized Bujones as a dance prodigy.  When Bujones turned 15, his performance in Don Quixote caused a sensation, catching the attention of George Balanchine, the famous art director of the New York City Ballet.  

When Balanchine invited Bujones to join the City Ballet, to the surprise of many the young Bujones decided instead to join the New York's American Ballet Theatre, largely because its classical repertory was more to his liking.  His career vaulted, and in 1974 he was performing as the theatre's principal dancer, the youngest male in the company's history to earn the coveted designation.  That same year, he stunned the world's dance community by becoming the first American male dancer to win a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition held in Varna, Bulgaria, an event once considered the "Olympics" of dance. The feat sealed Bujones's reputation, at age 19, as one of the most preeminent male ballet artists in the world. 

Also in 1974, another luminary in the dance world made headlines.  Russian star Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to Canada, and soon was headed to New York amid great fanfare.  He soon joined the American Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer.

The move set up a clash between Baryshnikov and the company's new international star.  In 1980, Baryshnikov became the theatre's art director, adding to the tension.  After six years of frustration dealing with roles that disappointed him, Bujones and the American Ballet Theatre parted ways.  For the next four years, Bujones toured the world, serving as guest artist for 60 ballet companies in 33 countries.  In 1987, he was tapped to be the first American (of either gender) to dance with Moscow's world famous Bolshoi Ballet. 

In 1989, when Baryshnikov left the American Ballet Theatre for other pursuits, Bujones was invited to return in a permanent guest role.  He remained there until 1995, when he gave his farewell performance.

In becoming artistic director of the Orlando Ballet in 2002, Bujones brought nearly three decades of experience performing and teaching at the highest levels the world's ballet stage had to offer. His three-year directorship brought the Orlando company into the international limelight of dance performance and training.

In 2004, Bujones's began treatment for lung cancer, but complications stemming from metastatic melanoma caused his untimely death at age 50 in March 2005, cutting short an exemplary career.  He is survived by his second wife, Peruvian-born dancer Maria Arnillas and a daughter, Alejandra, from his first marriage (in 1980) to Maria Kubitschek.

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