Cuban National Ballet is Back after Successful Performances in Spain

Havana, July 15 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban National Ballet (BNC) has returned to Havana on Monday after two months of successful performances in Spain, where it drew the attention of the public and specialized critics.

'Great' was the adjective used to highlight the performance in theatres of Madrid, a coliseum that had to place a poster on its door of sold out seats.

The company received a lot of praise from the local critics, which highlighted its excellence and praised Viengsay Valdes, the Queen (of the swans) of the troupe, as Deputy Director of the BNC.

In an interview in Spain, Valdes confessed her wish to preserve the historical legacy of the dance group, while at the same time working to bring new choreographers and works to more than the 700 of the repertoire.

We don't want to be typecast in the classic. The Cuban Ballet still has a long way to go, she added.

The journey began last May 24 in Oviedo and also extended to the Basque Country, Andalusia, Madrid and Barcelona, receiving applause from spectators with the works Cinderella and Swan Lake.

The cast included Anette Delgado, Dani Hernandez, Grettel Morejon, Raul Abreu, Chanell Cabrera, Claudia Garcia, Ginett Moncho, Yankiel Vazquez, Adrian Sanchez, Ernesto Diaz, Felix Rodriguez, Ely Regina and Chavela Riera.

The company is preparing for its next presentations, scheduled for September at the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso and then in several Mexican cities with the classic Giselle.

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US Aggressions against Cuba Strengthen International Support

The growing US aggressions against Cuba only cause an increase in international support for the Caribbean nation, Dirk Banderhorst, director of a ballet project in South Africa with Cuban methodology, said.

Commenting on the recent measures adopted by the Donald Trump administration that exacerbate the economic, commercial and financial blockade that Washington has imposed on Cuba for almost 60 years, the artist noted that these measures affect the Cuban people mainly.

These measures against Cuba strengthen the world's support and solidarity in favor of the Caribbean nation, he noted.

In that regard, he stated that artists from South Africa and other countries support the path chosen by Cuba and condemn the US-imposed blockade.

Banderhorst highlighted the support he has received from Cuba to develop the so-called South African International Ballet Competition, a program that has just turned 10 years and has had the participation of Cuban ballet teachers since 2015.

The project, which resulted during Banderhorst's visit to Cuba in 2008, aims to teach dance to children from poor municipalities in South Africa.

 

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Cuban National Ballet Schedules Projects with US Companies

New York, May 14 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban National Ballet (BNC) is scheduling on Tuesday new projects and collaborations with prestigious U.S. companies such as American Ballet Theater (ABT) and New York City Ballet (NYCB).

BNC artistic deputy director Viengsay Valdes told Prensa Latina that along with those American ballet groups, a grand gala is being prepared to pay homage to Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso in 2020 in Havana.

During her recent visit to New York City, Valdes met with ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie, and the executive director of that company, Kara Medoff Barnet.

The Cuban prima ballerina attended an ABT performance where a version of a 19th-century piece was presented.

Last weekend, Valdes attended many NYCB performances at David Koch Theater, of Lincoln Center, and went to a performance of the Mark Morris Dance Group, at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Upon her return to Cuba on Tuesday, Valdes will begin to prepare a season of the BNC with 'new proposals and challenges for our dancers.'

Valdes, recognized as one of the leading figures of the Cuban ballet nowadays, has been guest artist of the Washington Ballet, of United States; the Ballet Concerto de Puerto Rico; the Joburg Ballet of South Africa; Bolshoi Ballet and  Mariinski Ballet, of Russia, among other companies.

Valdes have been chosen among the 100 best dancers in the world in the 2010-2011 season by the prestigious magazine Dance Europe, and has taken her art to stages of the five continents.

Since January 22, she became the artistic deputy director of the company, directed by legendary Alicia Alonso.

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Carlos Acosta to Become Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet

The Royal Ballet of Birmingham (United Kingdom) has elected Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta as its new director, according to a press release from Acosta Dance, a company founded by the artist.

Acosta, who will assume the appointment from January 2020, said about his new responsibility that 'it is a great honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead this company.

I am a great admirer of its heritage and of what David Bintley (current director) has done to establish it as one of the world's leading classical ballet companies, he added.

My ambition is to build on its classical traditions, expand its repertoire and reach out to new and more diverse audiences, to define what it is to be a world-leading classical ballet company in the 21st century' , he said.

The choreographer also stressed that in parallel to this opportunity, he will continue his work with Acosta Dance and the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation, as this appointment will allow him to improve and develop the opportunities he can offer to both initiatives.

For this selection, a group of international experts chose the director in an open competition, after the British Bintley announced his retirement next July, at season's end.

David Normington, the company´s chair highlighted the Birminghan Royal Ballet´s great moment and described Acosta as the 'greatest best male dancer of his generation'.

I know he will bring us his legendary art, his energy and his charisma and allow us to connect with new audience, especially in Birmingham,' he said.

Acosta, 45, was trained at the Cuban National School of Ballet, where he graduated with honors in 1991 and, three years later, became top dancer for the Cuban National Ballet.

According to specialized critics, he has become one of the greatest dancers in the world, thanks to his physical qualities and talent which have led him to join the list of important companies in the world, such as Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom.

He made his debut as an actor last year in Yuli, by Spain's Iciar Bollain, a film where he plays himself and which has earned him the nomination for Best Newcomer at the 2019 Goya Awards.

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New Book Praises Distinctness of Cuban Alicia Alonso in Giselle

Essayists and dance critics recall on Saturday the debut of Alicia Alonso in Giselle in Cuba with the presentation of a book that compiles testimonies of the artist''s distinctive mark on that vital character.

The 26th International Ballet Festival of Havana Alicia Alonso celebrated that event on Friday with a performance of the masterpiece of Romantic ballet, performed by the first dancers of the National Ballet of Cuba Viengsay Valdes, Sadaise Arencibia, Grettel Morejon, Dani Hernandez, Rafael Quenedit, and Raul Abreu.

As part of the collateral activities of the event, on Saturday the Cuban poet, essayist, and critic Roberto Mendez will present the book Alicia Alonso o la eternidad de Giselle (Alicia Alonso or the eternity of Giselle), by Mayda Bustamante, published by Editorial Cumbres, of Madrid, Spain.

The compendium, profusely illustrated, is the most complete anthology of critical texts on the subject and the authors, experts from different countries, reflect the contributions of Alonso to the leading role of Giselle.

The activity will take place at 11:00, local time, in the popular Calle de Madera in the Plaza de Armas, in Old Havana, within the historic center of this capital.

Alonso debuted in Giselle on November 2, 1943, at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, along with the prestigious English dancer Anton Dolin as Albrecht and the cast of American Ballet Theatre (ABT), company of which she was one of its stars.

Bustamante's book also allows us to appreciate how the dancer's contributions extend beyond her extraordinary interpretation, since the choreographic version she created of that work still captivates the specialists in multiple scenarios and, in 1966, she received a prize at a festival in Paris, France.

The first dancers of the ABT, Hee Seo and Cory Stearns, will be the stars of the Giselle show on Saturday, scheduled to take place at 17:00, local time, in the Avellaneda hall of the National Theater of Cuba, together with the company of the Caribbean country.

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The other Alicia Created by “The Friend” Nelson Domínguez

Alicia in Black and White, in colors, sitting and dancing, flying, in life, many times Alicia and only one woman reinvented,seen from the admiration and friendship, drawn from portraits in body and soul, all presented by Nelson Domínguez to his friend Alicia.

The National Prize for Plastic Arts invites to contemplate, on his own words to CubaSí, much more than portraits of the Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso:

“I think that in this exhibition I created another Alicia, people can imagine that she is Alicia, I sometimes painted it and thought: Is this Alicia? The concern was never to paint a portrait, the intention was to make a work born on teh spur of the moment, of the will, of the inspiration, that is what prevailed in this exposition.”

"My Friend Alicia" is the name of this permanent exhibition at Events Room of the Great Theater of Havana as part of the celebration for the 26th International Ballet Festival.

During the opening, Miguel Cabrera, historian of the National Ballet of Cuba, commented the traditional connection between plastic arts and dance in Cuba, marked by names like Carlos Henríquez, Servando Cabrera or René Portocarrero and he highlighted that this collection shows a very particular vision:

"… it’s the communication of two very special beings, among which, and I am witness to this, have been a current of mutual sympathy and admiration. Nelson gives us something that has not happened and I think that any Plastic Arts historian could prove me wrong, I don't believe that no Cuban plastic arts artist has made such a complete work about the image, the being, the work and humanism of a figure of our culture… nothing escaped him and there is the human being, the teacher, the choreographer…

In exclusive talk with Cubasí, Nelson explained that he worked fom pictures of different moments on the life of the creator of the Cuban school of ballet to develop 42 portraits with diverse techniques and formats, at the same time he remembered: "Over the last years I have had three models who have inspired me greatly, they are Robaina, Fidel, and Alicia Alonso and I have been working with them… "

It’s a loving, honest work, loaded with spirituality, without abandoning for a second her style, Nelsón delivers images more or less realistic, more or less colorful, but always Alicia, multiple, admirable, transcendent:

"She baptize me with the nickname "the friend" and whenever there was a ballet event she said: “did you already invited the friend?” Always in all shows I was near her, because she had sent for me; I cooked for her many times, I have a girl who studied ballet and let me tell you it’s very sad, because if my father had had the opportunity to bring Picasso home and never brought him, I would condemn him for eternity, my daughter cannot condemn me, because I brought home the Picasso of ballet dance."

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Viengsay Valdes Highlights Historic Legacy of National Ballet of Cuba

Havana, Oct 27 (Prensa Latina) The prima ballerina of the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC), Viengsay Valdes said on Saturday that preserving and defending the historic legacy of her company, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary on October 28, is important.

The anniversary will be the main reason for celebration at the 26th Alicia Alonso International Ballet Festival in Havana, which will take place from October 28 to November 6, with participation of artists from more than a dozen countries.

It is important right now to remember and preserve what we have and to defend it, so that the BNC continues to be a great internationally recognized company, Valdes noted during a rehearsal of the opening gala.

With the help of relatives, artists and intellectuals of the time, Alicia, Fernando and Alberto Alonso founded the company in Havana on October 28, 1948. The dedication and love for what they did in the beginning is admirable, and the BNC in the early days was composed of several dancers, not only from Cuban, but also from the United States and other nations, the current prima ballerina pointed out.

In 1940, Alicia and Fernando Alonso joined the Ballet Theater (now the American Ballet Theater), in the United States, and they took advantage of a recess of that company to invite most of their colleagues to Cuba in order to establish a classical ballet company.

The three Alonsos and other founders devoted themselves, with a sense of commitment, to the task that had been theirs: establishing a new company and then a new school, becoming the youngest internationally recognized institution, Valdes said.

After the company was founded, several artists needed at the time to resume their jobs or other contracts abroad to survive and the Alonsos needed to found an academy to raise some money and mainly to train their own dancers.

I feel proud to be part of the BNC and, above all, it is a privilege to have had great teachers, said Valdes, who was a student of Alicia and Fernando Alonso, the so-called four jewels of National Ballet of Cuba (Josefina Mendez, Loipa Araujo, Aurora Bosch and Mirta Pla) and many other teachers.

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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".

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