Cuban national ballet defectors in Miami seeking to advance careers

Thu Apr 4, 2013 7:58pm EDT
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By David Adams

MIAMI (Reuters) - Six dancers who defected last month from the National Ballet of Cuba, one of the country's proudest and most prestigious institutions, auditioned at a Miami ballet group on Thursday.

"They are so talented and we are thrilled to see them," said Pedro Pablo Pena, founder of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, a nonprofit dance organization.

After an intense two-hour workout, the dancers explained that they were looking to advance their careers outside communist-led Cuba, where dancers enjoy privileged lives but earn modest salaries of $10 to $30 a month plus bonuses for foreign tours.

"Our goal is to train hard to achieve our dream of dancing and helping our families economically in Cuba," said Annie Ruiz Diaz, 24, who began dancing in Cuba at age 6 and had been with the National Ballet for almost seven years.

The defectors are staying with friends and relatives in Miami until they can find work.

"We expect to put on some events with them for the community here, but I don't have the budget to employ them full-time, unfortunately," said Pena, the host of the audition.

"But they are talented and I imagine they will find spaces in companies here in the United States," said Pena, a former dancer who came to Miami from Cuba in 1980.

The National Ballet of Cuba confirmed on Wednesday that seven members of the group had abandoned the company while touring in Mexico last month.   Continued...

Dancers (L-R) Edward Gonzalez Morgado, Randy Crespo, Luis Victor Santana, Annie Ruiz Diaz, Josue Justiz and Arianni Martin from the Cuban National Ballet, who defected last month, pose for a photo before their audition at the Miami Hispanic Ballet in Miami, Florida April 4, 2013. Reuters/Joe Skipper