Cuban ballet defectors appear in Miami, seek U.S. careers

Tue Jun 10, 2014 6:50pm EDT
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By David Adams and Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Seven dancers who defected over the weekend from the famed National Ballet of Cuba appeared in Miami on Tuesday and said they planned to pursue careers in the United States.

"The dancers defected because they need personal freedom and opportunity in their career," said Pedro Pablo Peña, founder of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, a nonprofit dance organization.

"It's a short career. Here they'll at least get paid more than they do in Cuba," he added.

It was the second major defection of Cuban ballet dancers in the United States in a little more than 12 months, though none are principals or soloists.

Cuba is one of the world’s top producers of ballet talent but dancers are restricted from working abroad and some leave the island frustrated by lack of opportunity, and high paying salaries.

At a press conference in Miami on Tuesday, six of the dancers, aged between 21 and 24, said they had considered defecting for some time and had discussed the idea with friends and family.

"I thought about this for months before the tour," said Ariel Soto Cantora, 23. "Each of us decided on our own but didn't come with each other," he added.

For some it was a spur of the moment decision. "I was thinking about it but didn't decide until the last minute," said Monica Gomez Bolaños, 21.   Continued...

Jorge Sanchez and half dozen dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba who defected after a performance in Puerto Rico rehearse for an upcoming performance shortly before a news conference in Miami, Florida June 10, 2014. REUTERS/Gaston De Cardenas