Britain's Royal Ballet kicks off Cuban performances

Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:20pm EDT
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Britain's Royal Ballet, making its first appearance in Cuba, was set to begin five days of performances on Tuesday that star dancer Carlos Acosta, described as the "event of a lifetime" for his native Cuba.

Acosta was to dance in three of the performances, including an appearance on Wednesday in a tribute to Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso.

Tickets, priced at 20 Cuban pesos, the equivalent of 91 U.S. cents, sold out quickly and have become one of Havana's most sought-after items.

Some of the performances will be shown on giant television screens outside for free viewing by the public.

Acosta, in an interview before a rehearsal at Havana's Gran Teatro, said the Royal Ballet's visit was as much an act of diplomacy as it was art.

"This is an event that's a bridge between two cultures," he said. "We can benefit from one another and (it comes) at a time when a lot of changes are happening politically."

He said he hopes that seeing the splendor of the Royal Ballet and its lush productions will cause Cubans to say "ah, right, this is where we have to aim."

"The other thing is for the Cuban audiences to free the mind a little bit," he said.   Continued...

<p>Leanne Benjamin (L) and David Makhateli of the Royal Ballet rehearse at the Grand Theater of Havana in Havana July 14, 2009. Britain's Royal Ballet arrived in Havana before what officials said would be five days of sold-out performances in the company's first visit to Cuba. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa</p>