Contemporary Dance of Cuba: a French History

The Cuban company starts a tour precisely in the country where it began its international journey, almost sixty years ago.

On January 9th, Contemporary Dance of Cuba begins its first international tour of the year: five French cities will host the mother company of modern Cuban dance, which will present a program that includes outstanding choreographies of the last decade.

Consagration, of the French Christophe Béranger and Jonathan Pranlas-Descours; Coil, by Julio César Iglesias; and Matria Etnocentra, by George Céspedes: these are works that walk different stylistic paths. They have something in common: the enthusiasm, strength and technical mastery they demand from a cast that, no one doubts is one of the strongest and most capable in the country ... and across the continent.

It’s been three decades since the group did not appear in France, without taking into account a few shows at the beginning of the last decade in Lyon. The public and critics in that country will have the opportunity to appreciate the work of a company that has deserved applauses in several European countries, particularly in Great Britain and Germany, its main places in that region of the world.

But the importance of this journey is that France was precisely the first country that visited Contemporary Dance of Cuba after its foundation by Ramiro Guerra, six decades ago. At that time it was called Modern Dance Ensemble, and it was planting the seed of what would be, over the years, the great movement of modern dance in the country.

The invitation was to participate in the Theater of Nations Festival, which hosted the city of Paris in 1961. It was a unique event: some of the most important scenic companies on both sides of the Atlantic met in the City of Lights. It was the opportunity for Cuba to show its new art, which had flourished thanks to the impulse of the Revolution, from the great seed of the Cuban cultural tradition.

But in April that year the mercenary invasion of Playa Girón took place, which shook the entire nation. At war it was lived. And it was precisely the undeniable force of a people, and their commitment to the new society that was forged, that guaranteed victory in just 72 hours.

The military action delayed the departure of the company. But being in France was a commitment, and a few days behind the schedule the company arrived to its destination.

These presentations at the famous Olympia Theater, at 28 Boulevard des Capucines, were a milestone for the Cuban dance: French critics warned that a new style was born. In fact, they were the foundations of an authentic school, which shifted between the North American and European aesthetics and techniques, but merged with the national heritage.

That was the beginning of a journey that has taken the company to the main theaters worldwide, throughout these decades.

The troupe now does not resemble those of years back: now there is a school that guarantees the level and availability of performers. But without Ramiro, without those first dancers, teachers and choreographers, one could hardly count on the extraordinary structure of today. Being a pioneer is usually a titanic challenge.

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French activists highlight Cuba's resistance against US aggression

The Association Cuba Cooperation France (CubaCoop) highlighted this Friday the resistance and unity of the Cuban people in the face of the escalation of US hostility in 2019.

The problems and obstacles created in Cuba by the Trump administration seemed insurmountable, but once again the resistance and unity of the Cuban people allowed them to find strength and solutions to maintain progress in the development of the country, the organization noted.

The association founded in 1995 to promote ties of friendship and solidarity with Cuba recalled President Miguel Diaz-Canel's speech at the end of the year, when he noted that Washington's hostility was faced without the need to appeal to neoliberal recipes, such as closing schools and hospitals, or raising the prices of fuel and electricity.

Last year, Cubans demonstrated their ability to overcome the tightening of the blockade, with a stable economy (which grew a modest 0.5 percent) and intact social protection, despite the unfair, inhuman and illegal measures, CubaCoop stressed.

With the purpose of strangling the Cuban economy, Trump did not cease to attack the small country, denounced the association that in the last two decades has promoted several projects of popular benefit in transport, water supply, renewable energy and culture in the provinces of Cienfuegos, Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas.

In this context, the association ratified its support for Cuba in 2020 and its commitment to cooperation, as a means to oppose the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed for almost 60 years.

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France condemns Title III of the Helms-Burton Act

The French government reiterated its condemnation of the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, a US initiative aimed at tightening the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, the French Senate stated today.

On its website, the upper house of the French Parliament disclosed the position, expressed by the Foreign Ministry in response to Senator for Martinique Catherine Conconne, who on November 28 requested clarification of the French goverment´s position in the face of escalating White House hostility towards the island.

According to the written response, France considers Washington's decision to activate Title III of the Act, which seeks to deprive Cuba of foreign investment, based on its extraterritorial nature, as an unacceptable violation of International Law.

The United States threatens our economic sovereignty, by attempting to dissuade companies, especially European companies, willing to make investments on the island, the text highlighted.

The Foreign Ministry recalled this December 19 the European Council regulation 2271, adopted in 1996 when the US Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, which codifies the blockade, to protect the interests of the European Union from the application of extraterritorial laws.

The regulation from Brussels does not recognize any administrative or legal measure issued by a third country applied on European soil, thus rejecting Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, activated in May after previous White House administrations refrained from doing so in the face of global opposition.

Paris ratified that it will seek with its partners new measures to protect European interests and companies operating in Cuba.

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No Christmas service at Notre Dame for first time in 200 years

Notre Dame Cathedral will not hold Christmas services for the first time in more than 200 years, following the fire that devastated the Paris landmark in April, officials confirmed.

Reconstruction works take place on Notre-Dame on July 9, 2019 in Paris after it was badly damaged by fire in April.
It will be the first time since 1803 that the 850-year-old cathedral has not held Christmas services, spokesman Andre Finot told CNN on Sunday.
The cathedral -- a UNESCO World Heritage site -- was ravaged by a fire which destroyed the structure's fire, parts of the roof and vault in April.

Smoke and flames rise from Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019.
Midnight mass will still be celebrated on Christmas Eve by rector Patrick Chauvet, but would instead be held at the nearby church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois, Agence France-Presse news agency reported.
The building had remained open for Christmas during 200 years of turbulent history, including Nazi occupation in World War II.

In June, French prosecutors said the catastrophic blaze could have been caused by a burning cigarette or an electrical malfunction. Officials noted they were looking into the possibility of negligence as they opened a judicial investigation.

French President Emmanuel Macron plans to have the structure rebuilt in five years. In April, France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced an international architects' competition to rebuild, and perhaps redesign, the fallen spire of the medieval landmark.
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Zelensky meeting with Macron at Normandy Four summit

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron are holding a meeting in Paris as part of the Normandy Four summit.

Before the four countries’ leaders gather for a joint meeting, they will hold bilateral meetings. After Macron, Zelensky will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the same time, will hold meetings with Merkel and then with Macron.

A bilateral meeting between Putin and Zelensky is scheduled after the Normandy Four summit.

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Trump launches Nato meeting with attack on 'nasty' France

US President Donald Trump launched a two-day Nato meeting on Tuesday (Dec 3) with a blistering attack on France's criticism of the alliance and on "delinquent" members that don't pay their way.

At a news conference held to celebrate Nato's success in cajoling European allies to boost their defence spending, Trump could not resist lashing out at President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron had tried to shake up the agenda for the London summit by branding the 70-year-old Western alliance "brain dead", but Trump slapped him down and warned that he could see Paris "breaking away" from Nato.

"Nato serves a great purpose," Trump said, at a joint press appearance with alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"I think that's very insulting," he said of Macron's comment, branding it a "very, very nasty statement essentially to 28 countries".

"Nobody needs Nato more than France," he said. "It's a very dangerous statement for them to make."

Asked whether the US alliance with Nato was shaky, Trump denied it, but said: "I do see France breaking off... I see him breaking off."

Trump defended Stoltenberg, boasting that Nato members have massively increased their defence spending thanks to his pressure - but then reiterated his complaints about European spending.

"When I came in, I was angry at Nato, and now I've raised US$130 billion," Trump said, referring to the sum Stoltenberg says Canada and European members will have added to defence budgets by next year.

"And yet you still have many delinquent - you know I call them delinquent when they're not paid up in full," he said. Only nine of Nato's 29 members spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.

Trump cited in particular Germany as falling short, spending only 1 per cent to 1.3 per cent.

Leaders of the 29 allies are descending on London to lock horns over spending and how to deal with Russia in a major test of unity as Nato seeks to assert its relevance.

If the Macron comments set an angry tone for the meeting, there are also expected to be clashes with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was also furious with the French leader.

"First of all, have your own brain death checked. These statements are suitable only to people like you who are in a state of brain death," he said last week.

French officials summoned the Turkish envoy in Paris to complain while a US administration official predicted that many members would tackle Turkey over its purchase of a Russian S-400 air defence system.

Turkey, in turn, has warned it will block a Nato plan to defend Baltic countries unless the alliance recognises a Kurdish militant group as terrorists, Erdogan said before the summit.

It was reported last week that Ankara was blocking Nato's new Baltic defence plan, demanding greater support in its fight against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Nato has mooted a plan to bolster the defences of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia against a potential attack from Russia, though details remain unclear.

Macron and Erdogan will come face to face on Tuesday in a four-way meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose spokesman said he would be emphasising the need for Nato unity.

"We can see this as likely the tale of three egos," said Amanda Sloat, a former senior diplomat and a fellow of the Brookings Institution, warning that Trump, Macron and Erdogan were the figures to watch.

The summit also comes at an unexpectedly awkward moment for Johnson, with Britain in the midst of a frenetic election campaign.

Normally a summit like this would give the PM of the day a boost but with Trump deeply unpopular among many British voters, his visit is a potential banana skin for Johnson.

The substance of the meeting is thin, with only one three-hour session planned, where leaders are expected to sign off on a set of decisions already taken by Nato foreign and defence ministers.

These include making space a full domain of conflict - alongside land, sea, air and cyber space - as well as a new report on how the alliance should approach China and its growing international assertiveness.

What is likely to be more significant in the longer run is the fallout from Macron's broadside, in which he complained Nato talks too much about money and not enough about strategic priorities.

In response, Germany has suggested setting up an expert panel to look at how Nato can be adapted to address political questions more effectively.

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Women´s Handball WC Day 2

With the 2019 IHF Women’s WC taking place in Japan handball fan in North and South America probably aren’t going to be able to watch very many matches live. Japan is 14 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast and most matches take place in the wee hours of the morning. Even fans in Europe might be a little challenged with the 8 hour time difference. Certainly, during the week when folks have to work.

Of course, if you want to know the result of any match, social media and the IHF will quickly tell you who won and how.

But, what if you don’t want to know? What, if you prefer to watch without knowing who’s going to win?

Well, it’s not always easy to remain oblivious, but I’m going to try and help you do so with “Spoiler Free” links to match video. Along, with a few notes as to what’s on the line for that upcoming matches.

Also, if you find yourself geoblocked out of the IHF web stream this article has some tips that should help you find a way to watch: Link

Sunday, 1 December

Group B
Brazil vs France Video Link
Australia vs Germany Video Link
S Korea vs Denmark Video Link (With Commentary from Paul Bray)

Both Brazil and France lost on the first day of competition. France to South Korea and Brazil to Germany, so both sides will want to avoid going 0-0-2. Australia will be huge underdogs to Germany while S Korea and Denmark will both try to move to 2-0-0 in the Group

Group C
Kazakhstan vs Montenegro Video Link
Spain vs Hungary Video Link (With Commentary from Paul Bray)
Senegal vs Romania Video Link

Kazakhstan will be a big underdog vs Montenegro. Spain and Hungary both won their matches, so that is a battle of unbeaten teams. Senegal gave Montenegro a close game while Romania was blown out by Spain. Could be interesting to see whether Romania can bounce back.

France vs Brazil: 2 teams desperate to avoid going 0-0-2 to start the competition
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‘Can you imagine our troops coming to France without invitation?’ Bashar Assad blasts French ‘occupation’ of Syria

There’s no major difference between supporting terrorism on Syrian soil and sending troops there without formal approval from its government, Bashar Assad said as he lambasted France’s role in Syria’s civil war.

Syria has “come a long way” toward defeating much of the terrorist insurgency on its soil, but pockets of resistance still remain as jihadists are receiving support from Turkey and Western countries, Bashar Assad told Paris Match magazine, singling out the US, the UK and “especially France.”

France has joined the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) coalition, providing air support and deploying special forces to Syria. But for Assad, the French intervention amounted to an “occupation,” as Paris – like its major NATO ally Washington – failed to secure Damascus’ authorization of the mission.

Do you frankly think that we can send Syrian forces to fight terrorism in France without being invited by the French government? International law governs the behavior of states in the world, not [their] intentions.

Now, when foreign forces came to Syria without being invited by the legitimate government, “it is [called] occupation,” the Syrian president insisted, adding, “there is not a big difference between supporting terrorism and deploying the military to occupy a country.”

Dubbed Operation Chammal, the French deployment was, officially, to carry out reconnaissance flights and aid Kurdish and Arab fighters in Syria. At peak times, France’s assets in the Middle East included a Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group, a fighter jet squadron as well as several marine units on the ground.

The interview came on the back of the Syrian army’s advances in the northern province of Idlib. The troops are now trying to fight their way toward the last militant-held towns along the strategic Damascus-Aleppo highway.

Also on Britain and France will send forces to Syria ...but Americans will pay for it, report suggests...

As the fighting continues, Assad said Syria can handle the war without any backing from the West. “We can manage our own business ... But we want to come back to a world order that is no longer respected, because chaos reigns,” he concluded.

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