Life and Work
An artist of unquestionable merit, Celia Neves rose to the category of "star" at a very young age, having participated in the best Spanish classical ballet companies of her time. Several reviews of that period highlighted the classicism, technique and inspiration that she imprinted to her interpretations. Critics and admirers gave her the name: "The Soul Who Dances".
Settled in Portugal by marriage, she was considered for five decades the Soul of Spanish Dance in the country. The halls of the Condes, Trindade, Monumental, S. Luís, Tivoli, Vilaret, Maria Matos and D. Maria II theatres were sold out and filled with applause, confirming the pedagogical solidity, the artistic taste and the choreographic talent of Celia Neves.
During the 1947/49 opera season at the S.Carlos National Theatre, she participated as a dancer and choreographer in operas sucha as Carmen and La Traviata, interpreted then by great international singers such as Gino Bechi and Ebbe Stignani.
Invited by the Lúcia Maria Martins Theatre Company, she choreographed various shows presented by that company at the Vasco Santana Theatre. She also choreographed the Spanish Dance of Tchaikowsky's Swan Lake at the invitation of Ana Máscolo and participated in the commemorations of the 5th centenary of Gil Vicente, by choreographing some of the plays that the D.Maria II National Company staged at the S.Carlos Theatre, at the invitation of Amélia Rey Colaço. In 1979, she was invited by the Portuguese National Ballet Company to choreograph and direct the ballets of Act III of the opera La Traviata.
It was in the early fifties that she founded the Escola de Ballet Clássico Espanhol Celia Neves (School of Spanish Classical Ballet) in Lisbon, where she sought to transmit to her pupils her profound knowledge of Spanish dances: the Spanish classical dance, Flamenco and many regional dances, both in their authentic versions and in their erudite interpretations, that is to say, stylised.
She stood out in the cultural milieu of Lisbon for the high quality and pedagogical, technical and artistic honesty of her teaching. Her artistically multifaceted personality intensified every day: as a dancer, as a dance pedagogue, as a choreographer and as a costume designer, even sometimes making the wardrobe herself, and always displays a fine sensitivity and intelligence in her choice of repertoire.
A widely diversified repertoire that revealed her astonishing choreographic versatility and her talent with balletic compositions from the classics - Albéniz, Falla, Soler, Turina... -, from the genuine dances of Andalusia and from other regions of Spain, while also using modern expressionism in dances that interpreted poems sucha as those of the famous Federico García Lorca. According to a television critic ot the time that mixture of poetry and dance was an explosive display of fierceness and drama.
The gracefulness and movement of her choreographies, the care and good taste in the choice of costumes, allied to that deep artistic sensibility that she knew how to infuse in her students, made her shows a dazzling exhibition of colour and freshness, in which the plastic and technical qualities made the public think that it was watching a show by real professionals, instead of simple students.
For Celia Neves, Dance was intertwined with Life itself - it was simultaneously an earthly passion and a religion, a sacred art. In Portugal, she transmitted this art to several generations of dancers and developed her admirable artistic, cultural and pedagogical activity without any official or private subsidy, although she greatly deserved it.
For all her work in the fields of classical ballet and folklore, the Spanish government awarded Celia Neves the medal of Artistic Merit and in 1971 and in 1984 she was also awarded the Cross of Benemerence by the Portuguese Red Cross.
(in Homenagem dos seus antigos alunos)