Ballet Nacional de Cuba

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Fidel Castro broke many promises when he became dictator of Cuba in 1959. But he kept his promise to support the arts, which lured the world’s prima ballerina, Havana-born Alicia Alonzo back home to found the Ballet Nacional. Although partially blind, Alonzo wowed audiences around the world for decades with her precision and artistry. She was still performing in her 70s.

Alicia Alonzo

Alicia Alonzo

In a program entitled “La Magia de la Danza” (the magic of the dance), the Ballet Nacional de Cuba presented highlights of six of their signature productions on three nights this February. Just before the curtain, the audience rose to give a spontaneous standing ovation as the 90+ mostly blind UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and head of the company made her way to her box.

Opening with Alonzo’s choreography of her most popular role, “Giselle,” the evening moved on with two to four highlights each of “Swan Lake,” “Cinderella,” “Nutcracker,” and “Don Quixote”. U.S. composer Louis Morreau Gottschalk’s “Symphonia” concluded the night. The principal dancers were, to say the least, absolutely marvelous and a credit to their director general. Grace, precision, passion, and delicacy … often in the same step.

U.S. Customs won’t let you bring back Cuban rum, coffee, or cigars. But they can’t stop you from bringing back memories of one of the finest ballet companies anywhere in the world.

Phil Neches

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