American Ballet Theatre to perform in Cuba

Tue Nov 2, 2010 5:05pm EDT
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - The American Ballet Theater, making its first appearance in Cuba in 50 years, will pay tribute this week to ballet legend Alicia Alonso in the latest attempt at cultural diplomacy to bridge the political divide between the United States and the communist-led island.

Alonso, who turns 90 on December 21, danced with the New York-based troupe in the 1940s and 1950s and performed some of its most famous works.

American Ballet Theater dancers and executives said on Tuesday they were pleased to be in Cuba because of Alonso's historic role in their company and the symbolic importance of their return to the country 90 miles from Florida after so many years.

"It's very difficult to say what political impact our presence could have here because we are not politicians," artistic director Kevin McKenzie said in a news conference.

But, he said, the U.S. ballet company has "a cultural depth to reach across all differences, to a culture of like mind."

"It is not our purpose to do anything but to speak of our cultural sameness," he said. "I think that dialogue is what will expand to brighter and more positive horizons in the future."

Alonso returned to Cuba after the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power and took charge of the Cuban National Ballet, where she has groomed dancers who now perform around the world.

Two of American Ballet Theatre's top dancers, Jose Manuel Carreno and Xiomara Reyes, are Cuba natives who were Alonso proteges.   Continued...

<p>Alicia Alonso, Cuba's prima ballerina assoluta and director of the Cuban National Ballet, is interviewed by reporters at an event in Havana October 31, 2010. The 22nd International Ballet Festival is taking place in Havana till November 7. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan</p>