Hamilton Tourism Presents Belma Gurdil-Diamante its 2009 Arts and Entertainment Award

On December 13, 2007 Hamilton and the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble rightfully took centre stage in the universe of international ballet. One of the greatest ballerinas in the history of the dance was bringing 60 dancers from the world-acclaimed Cuban National Ballet to Hamilton Place.
After an absence of 37 years from Canada Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso, founder and artistic director of the Cuban National Ballet, accepted an invitation from Belma Gurdil-Diamante, CEO of the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble, to attend and direct the performance of the classic ballet The Nutcracker.
The event crowned two years of negotiations between Gurdil-Diamante and Madame Alonso. Both women passionately believed that ballet should not exclusively belong in the realm of the elite. Both women embraced the notion that ballet should appeal to publics of all ages and walks of lives. Everywhere. For the past 60 years Madame Alonso had succeeded in Cuba where ballet became as popular as baseball, Cuba’s national passtime. Now it would be Hamilton’s opportunity to turn the classic dance into a popular venue.                  

Thousands of Hamilton volunteers rallied in support of Gurdil-Diamante’s impossible dream. Parents and children held raffles, sold tickets and worked tirelessly to make sure that the performance was a resounding success. They distributed thousands of flyers announcing the stellar performance of the Nutcracker Suite, sold cookies door to door in an effort to raise funds that would help with the expenses associated with a visit of such magnitude. Mothers lovingly sawed costumes for the children who had been carefully chosen to share the limelight with the Cuban dancers. Fathers, relatives and friends volunteered as drivers, messengers or any other chores required for such a massive undertaking.    Ballet lovers from the United States and across Canada flocked to Hamilton. They would witness the historic, extraordinary event and catch a glimpse of the 85 year old Cuban diva. They would not be disappointed. The Nutcracker played to full houses and earned accolades from the public and from the national and international media.

The marvellous performance forged strong, permanent bonds between the two dynamic women and between Cuba and the city of Hamilton. It also started a rich, cultural tradition. The Cuban National Ballet would return to Hamilton Place twice a year with stellar presentations of The Nutcracker, Hansel and Gretel and Giselle, the unique signature piece of Alicia Alonso and the Cuban National Ballet. It also created an exchange program between the Cuban dancers and the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble, who performed and co produced in the Hamilton presentations by the Cuban National Ballet and travelled to Cuba to hone their skills with Cuban ballet masters at the Cuban National School of Ballet.

Over the last two years thousands of articles appeared in newspapers, art magazines and the Internet across the world acknowledging the efforts of Gurdil-Diamante and decisively placing Hamilton and the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble atop international ballet’s most coveted venues.

On April 2, 2009 Hamilton Tourism held their 11th annual 2009 Awards Presentation. It was announced that Ms. Gurdil-Diamante had won the 2009 Arts and Entertainment Ambassador Award while The Nutcracker received honourable mention in the Large Festival Category. The honours justly acknowledges Ms. Gurdil-Diamante’s extraordinary journey of bringing world-class ballet to Hamilton. It also establishes the city of Hamilton among the most sought-after venues in the dance world. On December 2009 The Nutcracker returns to Hamilton once again. The repeat performance is a further tribute to Ms. Gurdil-Diamante ‘s ability to bring to Hamilton the very best the world has to offer. It also confirms that the Hamilton Tourism Awards to Ms. Gurdil- Diamante and the Nutcracker are both timely and well deserved.           

1) At the reception line in Hamilton, from left to right, Hamilton Tourism´s Arts and Entertainment Ambassador Award winner Belma Gurdil-Diamante. Profesor Pastor Valle-Garay, Prima Ballerina Alicia Alonso and her husband Pedro Ramón, Director, Cuban National Museum of Dance, La Habana, Cuba..                 

2) Jorge Soberon, Consul General of Cuba in Toronto and Ms. Belma Gurdil-Diamante, CEO, Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble, recently named winner of the prestigious Hamilton Tourism Arts and Entertainment Ambassador Award 2009.
3) Belma Gurdil-Diamante, winner of the Hamilton Tourism Arts and Entertainment Ambassador Award 2009, stands at left while Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso addresses the guests at an Evening of Elegance, a Gala reception held to honour Madame Alonso´s visit to Hamilton.

*Senior Scholar, York University

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