US ballet companies to perform in Cuba

The American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet will perform in Cuba for the first time in half a century in November in homage to former prima ballerina Alicia Alonso on her 90th birthday, organizers said Friday. Alonso, who founded Cuba’s national ballet company in 1948, said it was “marvelous” that the New York-based ballet companies will perform during the Havana International Ballet Festival, which runs from October 28 to November 7. The American Ballet Theatre will perform “Themes and Variations,” a piece choreographed for Alonso by George Balanchine.

The last time the American Ballet Theatre performed in Havana was in 1960, two years before Washington imposed an embargo that is still in place. Alonso recalled that the New York City Ballet was the first company she danced with in the United States. She made her US debut with it at the Metropolitan Opera House in the role of “Giselle” on November 2, 1943. “My struggles, my roots in US ballet run deep, very deep,” she said. Though nearly blind and having difficulty walking, she still accompanies the Ballet Nacional de Cuba on all its overseas tour.

Her company will present two new ballets during the festival, one of them, “Death of Narcissus,” based on a poem by Cuban poet José Lezama Lima, who was marginalized by the Cuban regime in the 1970s as a gay writer.

The other, “The Night of the Eclipse,” is a pas de deux based on a love story about two Cubans in the 19th century, Alonso said.

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