TCU’s own ballet legend dies at age 50

Fernando Bujones was more than a ballet legend.When Bujones, 50, choreographer in residence at the TCU dance department, died Thursday in Miami of malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer, it was as if the department had lost a family member, said chairperson Ellen Shelton.

“He was an incredibly special person. Not just professionally, but personally as well,” Shelton said.

Students and faculty wore black ribbons Friday in mourning of his death.

Laura Barbee, a senior ballet and modern dance major, said Bujones was demanding because he wanted to get the best out of his students, and he approached things with a vibrant spirit.

“He was excited and wanted to bring us there with him,” Barbee said. “He knew where your limits and expectations and goals were and would push you to those.”

Chris Bell, a senior ballet major, said Bujones was a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, was the first American to win the gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, and was later the director of the Orlando Ballet.

Bujones began working with TCU in 1996.

Bell said he had the honor of working with Bujones multiple times, and Bujones helped develop him as a dancer. Bell credited Bujones as the reason he began taking ballet seriously at age 13, and said Bujones was like an idol to him.

Bell said he would remember Bujones for his honesty.

“He was always willing to tell you exactly how you are doing, and it was because he wanted to help you.”

Shelton said Bujones was inspiring to watch as a teacher, and he was able to take the students to their highest level.

“He pushed everyone to their limits in the just, right ways,” Shelton said.

Barbee said she would best remember Bujones for the way he entered a room. She said he entered with charisma and enthusiasm and with his wife, Maria Bujones, “bounding along right next to him.”

Shelton said Bujones’ wife was an important part of his life.

“He and Maria met and fell in love, and it was one of those storybook romances,” Shelton said.

“She and Fernando were a team. Whenever you got Fernando, you got Maria. Together, they were just stunning.”

Shelton said Maria called her Thursday to tell her Fernando had died.

“He and Maria were family, and I think they felt the same about us,” Shelton said.

Despite his grand career, Barbee said Bujones knew how to find a balance with his passion for dance and an overall enjoyment of life. Barbee said he was happy, excited and had charisma.

Shelton said Bujones did not allow his achievements to get in the way.

“He was aware of his status, but he never let it get in the way of him as a human being,” Shelton said.

Shelton said Fernando didn’t waste time, but rather filled every moment.

“He filled it with grace and light and beauty and graciousness,” Shelton said.

“He made you feel close to him. He just took you in. We are going to miss him so much.”

There will be a celebration of his life later in the semester, Shelton said.