Cuban ballet defectors expected to dance at Miami gala
BY NORA GAMEZ TORRES
At least six dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba who abandoned the company during their recent performance in Puerto Rico plan to dance in a Miami gala later this month.
Mónica Gómez, Ignacio Galíndez and Raisel Cruz arrived in Miami Saturday, and Jorge Oscar Sánchez, Ariel Soto and Liset Santander were expected to arrive late Monday night. It’s possible two other dancers also stayed in Puerto Rico and did not return to Cuba with the company, but their names haven’t been confirmed.
Pedro Pablo Peña, director of the Cuban Classic Ballet in Miami, announced that the newcomers will be presented next Sunday at Miami-Dade Auditorium as part of a gala dedicated to Russian ballet. The gala features Lorena Feijoó, who is also Cuban and a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet.
At both the Cuban Classic Ballet and at the Hispanic Ballet of Miami, where he was formerly, Peña has devoted his time to help and promote Cuban dancers who defect.
On the National Ballet of Cuba website, Cruz and Gómez are listed as members of the corps de ballet and Galíndez appears as a “coryphée.”
Cuba’s immigration laws consider those who abandon delegations or official work contracts as “defectors” who can be banned from returning to the country for eight years.
However, some dancers have been able to leave and settle in other countries. But many are not allowed to dance again on Cuban stages for many years. In the past, other principal dancers, such as Viengsay Valdés, have been authorized to dance at galas and festivals with foreign companies without losing their status as members of the National Ballet of Cuba, which was founded by Alicia Alonso in 1948.
Magaly Suaréz, who was a professor at the company and also teaches in the United States, said she can’t understand “why some dancers can do that while others can’t.”
The exodus of dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba is nothing new. Ever since the first tours of the ballet corps after the Cuban Revolution, there have been defectors who have stayed in various countries. Still, the increased frequency of dancers’ arrivals in the United States and other countries points up current shortcomings in Cuba’s ability to develop young dancers.
Peña said most of the young dancers are leaving for professional reasons, rather than political motivations. “All that the young people do is dance, and they are not too involved in political activities,” he said. “What they want is to develop their careers. Also, in the case of dancers and athletes, their careers are very short, especially among men.”
Cuban dancers also complain of the rigidity and the lack of experimentation in stage presentations by the Cuban company, which they say is reluctant to incorporate trends or works by more contemporary choreographers.
When she arrived in Miami on Saturday, Raisel Cruz, 25, referred to the situation of young dancers at the national company as “precarious and frustrating.” She said that it is difficult to become a principal dancer without “a very direct friendship with certain professors.”
The ballet company’s financial situation is also difficult. In 2009, the Royal Ballet performed for the first time in Havana and paid tribute to Alonso. But its dancers complained to the British newspaper The Guardian about the heat, the bugs and the poor conditions at Havana’s Grand Theater.
The success achieved abroad by dancers trained at Cuba’s national ballet company also is a strong incentive for young dancers to look abroad. Among the many who have achieved stardom are Carlos Acosta, José Carreño, Rolando Sarabia and the Feijoó sisters, Lorna and Lorena. .
Last year, seven young dancers arrived in Miami, and all of them found work in less than six months. Randy Crespo and Arianni Martín joined the Arizona Ballet, Edward González was quickly hired by the Sarasota Ballet, Annie Ruiz Díaz and Luis Víctor Santana are with the San Juan Ballet, Alejandro Méndez is working in Phoenix, and Josué Justiz is in the Washington Ballet’s training pool.
“It’s not too difficult because they have the quality level,” Peña said. “Their résumés are sent to company directors and, because many arrive without videos or any other means to show their work, the fact that they are able to dance in Miami when they arrive gives them credibility.” Miami Herald