A BALLET, A NATION: The National Ballet was Created by the Cuban People

A conversation with doctor Miguel Cabrera, historian of the National Ballet of Cuba, about his close relationship with a group where he has worked more than half of his life…

If there’s anyone in doubt, or needs any data on the ballet in Cuba, there is a person who can be of great help: historian Miguel Cabrera. Famous for being an open and accessible man, prove of this is the affability he showed when he receives us and answers our questions.

What has meant for you to be the historian of the National Ballet of Cuba for so long?

First, I have to tell you that it has been a great honor, because I studied history, and I had my first contact with the National Ballet of Cuba precisely in the year of its twentieth anniversary, in year 1968. Since then I started a systematic work with the company. On year 1969 we created the radio show Ballet and in 1970, the magazine Cuba in Ballet. It was a superb job, because everything was starting fresh. It was like changing into a living thing, in something useful everything that had been kept in the files of Alicia Alonso, a patrimony zealously kept by a woman with huge influence in this history, named Angela Grau.

"I worked doing the records, ordering. First I began logically with Alicia's work. But it was a multiple task. I didn't just do that in the company. I had to do a very diverse work, but basically were the things related to the history.

I faced a beautiful work, as are all the foundation works, I had to organize and establish the repertoire of the company, Alicia's career everything, and the career of the main figures of the company: like Fernando, Alberto, also the four jewels of Cuban ballet. But they also gave me the task of working in the magazine, in the radio show, of delivering lectures, of giving courses at the National School of Art, in the University… All in all to do what I consider is the most beautiful part in my life: this work of making ballet more popular that has led me from Maisí to Mantua.

 

"But when you ask me the question, I remember a recent interview to doctor Olga Portuondo, when she said that her appointing as historian had not been official, there is no ordinance that declared her historian of Santiago de Cuba, but it was rather by her own right. Something similar happened to me. There was a person working in Propaganda, that person was in charge of writing the shows; one day she stepped into my office and told me: “I have a surprise for you, and put me on a show, and in the show I was presented as: Miguel Cabrera, historian. Hence, my name appeared for the first time, as historian. I asked: What about this? And she replied: Alicia said to put it this way.

“The appointing as historian could not be more honorable if the founder of the company, the key figure has decided so. I have always been presented like that: our historian. My most important status. I have received several distinctions in Cuba and abroad, but for me that detail of seeing my name in the show in the early 70’s (and still on air) it’s something that honors me".

The history of the National Ballet of Cuba is written black on white especially thanks to your work. What has it implied for you that responsibility?

When you are set to the task of pioneering, it’s something very big. I have always believed something I repeat to myself many times, I said it when my book National Ballet of Cuba was premiered. Half century of glory, in 1998: I belong to a very prestigious company, next to people who have been supreme, and I have always thought that the shows are made, the glory nights pass by, the applauses fade into silence, flowers wither, but that fact must stay. That has been my modest work. With great passion, with almost a sickening passion for justness, to write down history as it was, without alterations.

"When I published a more recent book, named Ballet in Cuba. Historical notes, a person who right now occupies an important position in this country, phoned me, and said: that book is one of the prettiest gifts I have ever had, only you could have written it, because it has everything with everyone.  

That has always been my concern: everything with everyone.

"That makes a foundation, which is a starting point.

"I inherited something from a beloved old friend whose name is almost forgotten he is José Antonio González. He left me the foundations. I took advantage of them. But when I look at the Ballet of Cuba, I see its dancers, I see Alicia's career, that of Alberto, Fernando, and the four jewels, the three graces, the choreographers, when I see I was able to capture all that in books, I think that is a source.

"Immodesty is really bad, like fake modesty. I know I have left very valuable books, but not because I wrote them, but for the greatness it carries what I have gathered. My task has been to be next to that. What does it make me a unique historian? Well, many historians are very good, they are devoted to study the sugar industry, but have never walked into a sugar cane factory. And I have written those books from inside, I am a member of this company. I have seen those choreographers grow, those dancers. I saw that generation that began in 1968, in the summer. I gave my first lecture on September 25th, 1968 here. So since that generation, I have seen them all enter. I saw the jewels become acclaimed figures. I have seen entire generations of dancers grow. I have been the chronicler."

Which has been the contribution of the three founders of this company to the Cuban culture?

I am a very lucky person. I graduated from history, but when I came here my true university began, from Alicia's hand, Fernando and Alberto. Do you imagine the honor that such personalities believe in you? That they turn everything you have inside? Imagine that those people give you the technical, aesthetic and ethical reasons that have ballet in Cuba…

"Alicia, Fernando and Alberto are the foundations of ballet in Cuba. I struggle a lot, as outcome of my investigations, to bring together their roles in the history. It is not true (only someone who doesn’t know history would say) that Alicia is just the great dancer that Fernando is only the great teacher, that Alberto is only the great choreographer… that is a limitation on the greatness of them three.

“Can somebody say that Alberto Alonso, the director of the Ballet School of Pro Art, since 1941 until 1961 who has been teacher in the musical theater who trained Josefina Méndez and Loipa Araújo, was not also a great teacher? Fernando was also a dancer, and a person who passed on his experiences. He knew a lot about kinesiology and muscles, but he knew it mainly because he had felt it in his flesh and blood.

"And Alicia? What can we say about Alicia? Of course, the classroom was filled mainly by Fernando, but one is not only a teacher when giving a chronology or a class, but when one sets the example. And Alicia did that and even more, she did it when she made corrections to the other dancers, when she offered lessons on style…

"I believe that the most beautiful thing about this I heard it from Fernando Alonso. One of those days, when listening to those polemics of people who love gossip (I have always been in the party of those who unite), Fernando said: do you know who made the National Ballet of Cuba and the Cuban School of Ballet? They were created by the Cuban people".

Cuban Company Acosta Dance Turns Summer into Art

The company Acosta Dance opens today at the Havana''s Grand Theater Alicia Alonso its Summer season, featuring works by choreographers from the United Kingdom, Spain and Cuba.

The hall Garcia Lorca will host the ensemble founded and directed by the prestigious dancer Carlos Acosta, whose biography inspired a film about to premiere at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, Spain.

According to a press release from the company, this program includes the works End of Time by the English choreographer Ben Stevenson and Impronta by the Spanish artist Maria Rovira.

By decision of Acosta Dance, the piece De punta a cabo (From Tip to Out), original version by Alexis Fernandez (Maca) will be reissued but, on this occasion, it will feature video images made by Cuban artist X Alfonso.

The audience attending these functions will be able to enjoy the world premiere of Satori, choreography by the young dancer Raul Reinoso, who was inspired by notions of Zen Buddhism to create a show about the search for spiritual enlightenment.

Satori has an original score composed by the Cuban musician Jose Gavilondo, costumes and decorations by the Curaçao designer Angelo Alberto and lights by the Italian artist Fabiana Piccioli.

Acosta Dance aims to offer integrative shows from the contemporary and the neoclassical, without discarding other expressions, times and styles of dance art.

The company intends to elaborate proposals in full accordance with the most current notions developed in the world, not only in terms of the body movement but also in terms of everything related to the scene.

The ensemble is defined as a space for renewal, research and experimentation for creators from all over the world, choreographers, musicians, designers, plastic and audiovisual artists.

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Successful Performance of Litz Alfonso Dance Cuba Ballet in Mexico

The National Auditorium in this capital was full of dance, music, luxury voices and good scenery, with the show ÂíCuba Vibra!, by the Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba ballet.

It was a rainy night but it was worth getting wet to see the professionalism of the Cuban company, which has taken the island's culture to different countries.

The program started with the piece 'De tierra y Aire', to later make a tour of the Cuban history and culture, but also with a lot of universality.

The Spanish dance was represented with flamenco, but all eyes was put on the Cuban dance, with Afro in particular, and a generous audience with such good art was excited.

The colophon was the Lizt Alfonso choreography entitled 'Se armo la rumba', where the dance company, star dancers, a group of musicians and important singers, among them pianist Pedro Sureda for Cuban chords, and guitarist Carlos Ernesto Varona for Iberian notes, participated.

Buleria, seguidilla, cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, conga, bolero, feeling, were rhythms and dance steps that make the heart vibrate in the National Auditorium, located at the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City.

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Viengsay Valdes Represents Cuba at Tokyo Ballet Festival

Cuban National Ballet Prima Ballerina Viengsay Valdes considered today an honor to represent her country at the 15th Tokyo Ballet Festival, which brings together world dance figures.

This festival began on July 27th and brings together artists from the best companies of the world. The aim is to provide a general description of the ballet scene today.

The artistic level here is very high and my performances have been exciting, I danced Muñecos, a Cuban piece by choreographer Alberto Mendez, said Valdes after one of her performances.

I did not do it a long time ago and returning to this piece gave some fresh air, I also had the pleasure and honor to work the details with Mendez in Havana, and later transmit them here to my partner, Brazilian Daniel Camargo, leading dancer for the Danish National Ballet, she said.

According to Valdes, if the artists manage to personalized well the characters of the tin soldier and the typical Cuban doll that are found thanks to moonlight magic, they reach the audiences' hearts; and she believes she has achieved it in Tokyo, the same city where the piece was premiered 40 years ago.

Muñecos won in 1978 the Choreography Prize during the 2nd International Ballet Competition in Tokyo, and the relationship between the Cuban and universal dance, along with a dramatic end for the appearance of the sun and the return of the characters to their initial state, still attracts audiences from several countries.

After the closing gala on August 18th, Valdes hopes to return to Cuba to prepare herself to perform during the 26th International Ballet Festival in Havana, to be held from October 28th to November 6th.

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Cuba National Ballet Takes Up Another Literary Classic: Cinderella

The National Ballet of Cuba, under the direction of the legendary artist Alicia Alonso, announced today that it will perform in this capital one of the most famous stories by Frenchman Charles Perrault: Cinderella.

The season will take place at the Great Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso, on July 19th, 20th, 21st  and 22nd, choreographed by Cuban Pedro Consuegra.

The creator was inspired by the story of Perrault of the same name to compose a dance version of Cinderella in two acts and four scenes, with music by Johann Strauss (son) and designs by Armin Heinemann.

The work was premiered in 1996 in this capital with an excellent reception from the public and critics, and as the main course of the next season the company announces the debuts in the main roles of young dancers, who will share the scene with the experienced ones.

Grettel Morejón, Rafael Quenedit and Bárbara Fabelo make up the cast of the first show; Ginett Moncho, Adrián Sánchez and Chavela Riera will assume the second; while Chanell Cabrera and Yankiel Vázquez will star in the third; and Viengsay Valdés, Dani Hernández and Claudia García will close the sets.

Next to Greta, Gustavo and the Fairy Rava appears Leontine, the stepmother, whose roll will be alternated between Ernesto Díaz and Yansiel Pujada.

In the opinion of the North American journalist Lewis Segal, of Los Angeles Time, The Cinderella of the National Ballet of Cuba becomes a version in which the character and the spirit remain subordinated to the classic narration.

Meanwhile, the Spanish critic Julio Bravo, of the newspaper ABC, highlighted the funny epilogue introduced by Consuegra in the style of the great classical ballets and a risky, brilliant and elaborate final pas de deux.

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Cuban Dancers Gain Panamian Admiration

Grosso Panama, Jul 8 (Prensa Latina) Twists, jumps, balance and a high level of interpretation resulted in the triumphs of Cubans Viengsay Valdes and Osiel Gouneo, who put the Panamanians on their feet in a gala in which other stars shone.

The pas de deux Don Quixote, one of the emblematic pieces of classical dance, was the perfect one for the first ballerina of the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) to show her virtuosity and refined art, virtues that the public was able to reward with ovations.

However, the artistic and technical preciosity of Kitry and Basilio, main characters of Don Quixote was not the only thing that impacted those present in the capital Anayansi theater, but also the drama of Spartacus, whose Russian version, the best known worldwide, was interpreted here for the first time by Valdes.

The others who asserted the technical and artistic quality of the Cuban ballet school were the young representatives of the BNC Katherine Ochoa and Narciso Medina, who with their exquisite performance and synchronization of movements in the pas de deux Emerald and Zero achieved sympathy and applause from the public.

And if we talk about stars, it is worth highlighting the impeccable presentation of Misa Kuranaga and Patrick Palkens, main figures of the Boston Ballet who put many standing up after the performance of the pas de deux Black Swan, a work full of love.

The representatives of the National Ballet of Portugal Filipa de Castro and Carlos Pinillos deserved to be mention as well in this international gala, for they showed the passion that unites them in real life in Cantata, a beautiful interpretation in the midst of a tragic environment.

Other representative pieces of classical ballet were present in this function through the young Panamanians Eileen Frazer, Illya Kun, Ana Carolina Olarte and Andrea Diaz, who did not let themselves be overshadowed by the stars and demonstrated an interpretative and technical level that their audience rewarded with applause.

Meanwhile, Dusty Button, choreographer and main dancer of the Boston Ballet, showed enough talent to unfold and move from contemporary dance with Audible, her first solo performance, and Gamzatti Variation from La Bayadere, a classic piece.

Concluding a night full of luminaries, 'The Dance of the Hours' was performed to merge the efforts of all in one demonstrating the beauty of the dance as an expression of fantastic art, going beyond borders.

Grosso Panama, Jul 8 (Prensa Latina) Twists, jumps, balance and a high level of interpretation resulted in the triumphs of Cubans Viengsay Valdes and Osiel Gouneo, who put the Panamanians on their feet in a gala in which other stars shone.
The pas de deux Don Quixote, one of the emblematic pieces of classical dance, was the perfect one for the first ballerina of the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) to show her virtuosity and refined art, virtues that the public was able to reward with ovations.

However, the artistic and technical preciosity of Kitry and Basilio, main characters of Don Quixote was not the only thing that impacted those present in the capital Anayansi theater, but also the drama of Spartacus, whose Russian version, the best known worldwide, was interpreted here for the first time by Valdes.

The others who asserted the technical and artistic quality of the Cuban ballet school were the young representatives of the BNC Katherine Ochoa and Narciso Medina, who with their exquisite performance and synchronization of movements in the pas de deux Emerald and Zero achieved sympathy and applause from the public.

And if we talk about stars, it is worth highlighting the impeccable presentation of Misa Kuranaga and Patrick Palkens, main figures of the Boston Ballet who put many standing up after the performance of the pas de deux Black Swan, a work full of love.

The representatives of the National Ballet of Portugal Filipa de Castro and Carlos Pinillos deserved to be mention as well in this international gala, for they showed the passion that unites them in real life in Cantata, a beautiful interpretation in the midst of a tragic environment.

Other representative pieces of classical ballet were present in this function through the young Panamanians Eileen Frazer, Illya Kun, Ana Carolina Olarte and Andrea Diaz, who did not let themselves be overshadowed by the stars and demonstrated an interpretative and technical level that their audience rewarded with applause.

Meanwhile, Dusty Button, choreographer and main dancer of the Boston Ballet, showed enough talent to unfold and move from contemporary dance with Audible, her first solo performance, and Gamzatti Variation from La Bayadere, a classic piece.

Concluding a night full of luminaries, 'The Dance of the Hours' was performed to merge the efforts of all in one demonstrating the beauty of the dance as an expression of fantastic art, going beyond borders.

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U.S. Policy Prevents National Ballet of Cuba's Performance

Havana, Jul 3 (Prensa Latina) The National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) today clarified through a statement the facts about its frustrated performance in the United States with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The Cuban company notified that the function conceived for next August with the symphony orchestra failed to consolidate due to the complex and expensive procedures to obtain the visas that could not be assumed by the Philharmonic.

'This situation was widely evaluated by both parties since last April of this year,' the text adds.

The clarification by the BNC is due to information circulated in several U.S. media about the refusal of visas to the group by the U.S. Department of State to act in that country.

The complex situation is the result of the visa policy established by U.S. President Donald Trump, which states that Cubans interested in traveling to the United States must process visas in a third country.

Despite these limitations, the prestigious group led by prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso has made several tours of American cities with great acceptance by the public and specialized critics.

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CRITICAL ZONE: From Cuba to the World and Vice Versa

Cuban artists star a resounding festival in Washington as a sign of the strength of the cultural exchange with other countries of the world.

Highly-aesthetic proposals and resounding expressions of our art are usually part of the cultural exchange between our country and other nations. Obviously, there is a lot of potential here. There is a very rich, active cultural maze. There are top artists known worldwide representing different cultural expressions.

There is a strong artistic teaching system all around the country that ensures continuity and renovation. The perfect example is the Cuban delegation participating in the Cuba’s Art Festival at the Kennedy Center, in Washington. Almost all artists there have been trained in our art schools. Their quality is beyond discussion.

However, not every artistic expression made in Cuba performing abroad has the same quality standards. There are some poor proposals as well. In several cases, they lean more on the business standard than art itself. It is already known that every time market is the key, you cannot guarantee hierarchies.

Nonetheless, there are some entrepreneurs that assess fairly the richness of Cuban culture. And thanks to such determination, along with the work of Cuban art institutions, major stages of the world have boasted some of the greatest artists living in Cuba.

Artists are excellent ambassadors. Bridges built on culture are solid and create bonds among people. Such bridges, of course, work in both directions.

Thanks to the prestige earned by the Cuban culture, famous artists and bands have visited in Cuba. You can check the catalogue of the Havana Biennial, writers attending International Book Fairs, companies attending our festivals, and so on. We are out of several world art circuits due to economical issues. But Havana is a strong venue for art in Latin America.

We say Havana, but other provinces could be included. We are convinced much can be done to socialize art across the country.

The same occur with artists born in places far from the capital who can be included in the cultural delegations that travel abroad. It is a challenge for the institutions.

What is true is that culture and good art have been able to avoid political and economical pitfalls. The cultural bonds between Cuba and other nations are strong, rich, growing…They are symbol of an artistic movement which represents the pride of a country.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff

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