Fes­ti­val re­flects sounder foot­ing for diplo­macy

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By REUTERS

A woman in a floaty dress wres­tles a mino­taur who re­flects her in­ner demons in Er­rand into the Maze, one of the Martha Gra­ham Dance Com­pany works that made its Cuban pre­miere this week­end to thun­der­ous ap­plause at the Ha­vana bal­let fes­ti­val.

The troupe was per­form­ing in the is­land for the first time since 1941 and is one of seven US com­pa­nies par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 10-day event, un­der­scor­ing greater US-Cuban cul­tural ex­change in the wake of the coun­tries’ de­tente.

“The stand­ing ova­tion said it all,” said a beam­ing Cuban spec­ta­tor, 64-year-old Maria An­to­nia Ar­mas. “It was fab­u­lous. I just hope this ex­change will con­tinue to flow.”

The Cuban and US bal­let worlds have a deeply en­twined his­tory and the found­ing fa­ther of Cuban dance, Ramiro Guerra, stud­ied un­der Gra­ham in New York in the 1940s.

Yet ties suf­fered dur­ing the five decades of ide­o­log­i­cal hos­til­ity fol­low­ing the 1959 rev­o­lu­tion in Cuba.

“We keep hear­ing there is a Martha Gra­ham world in Cuba that we have been apart from for decades,” the com­pany’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Janet Eil­ber, said in an in­ter­view.

“We know it has evolved in its own way and in New York we have evolved in our own way, so to come to­gether and meet our long lost rel­a­tives has been very in­ter­est­ing.”

While there have been some ex­changes be­tween Cuban and US dance in the last two decades, the de­tente an­nounced nearly two years ago is en­abling a broader open­ing, Eil­ber said.

For one, it has made trav­el­ing and se­cur­ing fi­nanc­ing much eas­ier, she said.

Cuban spec­ta­tors said the mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary US chore­ogra­phies per­formed dur­ing the open­ing week­end of the 25th In­ter­na­tional Bal­let Fes­ti­val of Ha­vana were like a breath of fresh air.


Ali­cia Alonso (cen­ter), Cuban prima bal­le­rina as­so­luta and founder of the Cuban Na­tional Bal­let, at­tends an event to mark the open­ing of the 25th In­ter­na­tional Bal­let Fes­ti­val of Ha­vana, on Tues­day.

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