Renowned prima ballerina Lupe Serrano had the advantage of growing up in a musical family. Her father was a Spanish-born musi¬ cian from Argentina who met her mother while he was on tour in Mexico City. Serrano was born and raised in Santiago, Chile, where her father had conducted an orchestra and decided to settle.
When Serrano was thirteen, her family moved to Mexico City, where her parents enrolled her in formal ballet training classes. She had been gifted with talent and a natural love for dance since she was a little girl, and her parents wanted to take advantage of the cultur¬ al opportunities the city had to offer.
At the age of fourteen, she debuted in a Mexico City ballet company’s production of Les Sylphides. Serrano was so committed to dance that she finished high school early and began touring immediately, skipping college altogether. At the age of eighteen, she went on a tour of Colombia and countries in Central America with the great Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso (see no. 41).
Upon her return, Serrano joined the government- sponsored Ballet Folklorika of Mexico, but she remained there only briefly. At the age of twenty, she moved to New York City to advance her career. Serrano quickly earned a position with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, where she had her first solo perform¬ ances. The company folded, however, and Serrano returned to Mexico City to star in a television program about the arts.
In 1953, Serrano returned to New York to join the prestigious American Ballet Theatre (ABT) as a principal dancer. For almost twenty years, she performed with the ABT in more than fifty different roles, including classics such as Swan Lake and Giselle. She trav¬ eled the world and won over sophisticated audiences in Europe and in the Soviet Union.
In 1957, Serrano married ABT conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn. They had two daugh¬ ters. After Serrano’s children were born, she continued to dance with the ABT. The family moved from New York to New Jersey to Milwaukee, as Serrano’s husband took jobs with orchestras and symphonies in those cities. When the family moved to Milwaukee, Serrano began teaching. It was the beginning of her second profession.
She retired from dancing in 1970, at the age of forty. Serrano’s marriage ended in divorce, but she remained in the United States to continue her teaching career. She has taught at the National Academy of Arts in Illinois and the Pennsylvania Ballet School in Philadelphia. In 1988, she was appointed artistic associate of the Washington Ballet in Washington, D.C.