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By Dance Magazine
Ruben Echeverría (middle) with Robert Wallace and Cheryl Yeager after an American Ballet Theatre performance of Don Quixote in 1992. Photo Courtesy Carolina Echeverría.
The internationally recognized ballet master Ruben Echeverría passed away in his home in Caracas, Venezuela in July. “He was a fantastic artist and a great coach,” effused Ricardo Bustamante, ballet master and assistant to the director of San Francisco Ballet.
Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Echeverría started taking lessons at the School of Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires in 1956. In the 1960s he left South America to study at the Bolshoi Ballet School with Asaf Messerer as well as at the Vaganova Academy under Alexander Pushkin. In 1964 he got his first contract as professional dancer with the Hamburg State Opera. Until 1972 he performed in the Cologne, Berlin, Munich, and Monte Carlo Operas, among others. During this period he worked with great choreographers such as Balanchine, MacMillan, and Robbins.
In the early '70s he served as ballet master at the Operas of Karlsruhe and Nuremberg. At the request of Jerome Robbins, he finished his career as a dancer by performing the role of Bernardo in West Side Story in a German-language version.
In 1976, Echeverría moved to London and taught at both The Royal Ballet and London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet), where he gave private sessions to Natalia Makarova while she was working on Cranko’s Onegin. Since 1978 he has been guest teacher or choreographer with many companies including the Australian Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Rambert Ballet as well as with companies in Portugal, France, Italy, Norway, Brazil, and Venezuela. In 1991–1993, he was engaged as ballet master and teacher with American Ballet Theatre under the direction of Jane Hermann.
Ricardo Bustamante met Echeverra in Milan when he was guesting at La Scala with Alessandra Ferri. “He began to coach me,” recalls Bustamante, “and I trusted his taste.” Later, Bustamante invited Echeverría to two successive companies he was directing: Ballet Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1998–99 and Ballet de Santiago in Chile from 2000 to 2003. “He knew how to make you strong, and he was a great partnering teacher. He was good at helping bring the expression out of you. He made my dancers strong and very expressive. He always made everybody laugh and he was a wonderful friend.”
Condolences to be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. —Carolina Echeverria and Wendy Perron
From left: Ross Stretton, Irina Kolpakova, Cheryl Yeager, Robert Wallace, and Echeverría in 1992. Photo Courtesy Carolina Echeverría.