By Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Born in Cuba in 1933 Apolonia García Hernández would take Europe by storm as one of the most beautiful and statuesque belly dancers to take the screen in the 1950s and 60s.
Chelo’s mother spotted her dancing talent and natural ability, she trained in dance and eventually emerged as a top dancer in Cuba’s National Theatre in Havana. She toured the world performing on stages throughout South and Middle Americas, North Africa, and Europe.
Chelo arrived in Paris and took the stage at the world-famous Folies Bergère. With her exotic beauty, curvy physique, and dance talent, she was dubbed the “Cuban H-Bomb.”
The French press compared Chelo’s to the legendary Josephine Baker. Her use of Afro-Caribean rhythms and powerful moves made her a popular act through the mid-1950s.
During her career, she was linked romantically with actors, dancers, wealthy businessmen, and most notably an Indian Prince. When she broke off her relationship with Prince Abdul Rahman, she was quoted as saying. “ If I cannot dance, I am dead!” She wouldn’t abandon her career for love!
Chelo left the club for a chance to make her name in the Italian movie industry. Her film roles included intense dances that showcased her dance skills, and “Cuban Fire.”
Between 1959 and 1969 she appeared in 19 “Sword and Sandle” Italian swashbucklers. Many made it to the United States with subtitles or dubbing. Films like “David and Goliath,” “Sign of the Gladiator,” and “Goliath and the Gladiators” where she starred alongside actor Steve Reeves.
You can find Chelo’s full film credits on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0022154/
Wanna catch one of her dances? Check out this YouTube clip from “Goliath and the Barbarians” c. 1959