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Ballet nacional de Cuba

See my review of the Ballet nacional de Cuba at

Ballet Nacional de Cuba Performs This Week at the Kennedy Center (Washingtonian, June 2):

As noted in my summer classical music roundup, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba is back in town this week, with two productions in the Kennedy Center Opera House. Alicia Alonso, now in her nineties, still directs the company she founded in 1948: That was before the Cuban Revolution, but Fidel Castro soon became one of the fledgling company’s strongest supporters. That association has not prevented the company from touring the United States, or stopped dancers from defecting on previous trips here. The company’s glories are the productions that made Alonso famous as a performer, like Giselle, and their old-school costumes and sets, and in some cases choreography, tend to have a metaphorical whiff of formaldehyde about them. With one of the strongest training programs in the world, however, the company’s greatest asset are its Cuban dancers.

The company’s first production, which opened on Tuesday night, is Magic of the Dance, a tasting menu of excerpts from seven different ballets. It was the way that dance used to be served up in the Renaissance, in a series of unrelated vignettes, but for any regular ballet-goer used to a story being told in a relatively coherent way, it makes for an odd night in the theater. Only the last excerpt, the “Creole Party” scene of Alonso’s staging of Gottschalk Symphony, a Caribbean-flavored cocktail based on Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s symphony A Night in the Tropics, is truly distinctive. It was a rum-and-spearmint concoction, complete with conga lines, after a menu of six sugary desserts, basically the most famous pas de deux and corps de ballet scenes from six chestnuts of the ballet repertory. [Continue reading]
Ballet nacional de Cuba
Magic of the Dance and Don Quixote
Kennedy Center Opera House


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