Monday, 28 November 2016

Castro and Cuban Ballet

Fidel Castro 1926-2916
Author Antônio Milena
Source Wikipedia

Whether your opinion of him is closer to that of Mr Jeremy Corbyn or that of President Elect Trump, it would appear that the late Fidel Castro was personally responsible for the phenomenal development of ballet in Cuba. Acknowledging that achievement is not to endorse or excuse the former leader any more than admiration for the German motorway system can be a justification of Adolf Hitler, but the construction of those highways in the 1930s like the success of Cuban dancers are historical facts that cannot be denied.

In her article in The Guardian We owe it all to Castro 3 Aug 2015,  Judith Mackrell quoted Alicia Alonso:
"before Castro, "professional ballet just didn't exist in Cuba, not at all". She had tried to do what she could, returning from a stellar career abroad to run a small company in Havana, which she subsidised with her earnings and cast with imported dancers."
After he came to power, Castro offered Alonso US$250,000 to set up a state ballet company in Cuba. Mackrell continues:
"When Castro came to her with his remarkable appeal Alonso was ready. Her first imperative was to begin training local dancers and her second was to train local audiences. "In the beginning the people knew nothing, so we went into the factories and into the military centres to teach the ballet to them."
As a result of those efforts Cuba established regional ballet schools around the island as well as the National Ballet School that trained artists like Javier Torres and Carlos Acosta and developed "one of the most devoted dance audiences in the world,"

Joanna noted that devotion  in her review of the National Ballet of Cuba's Swan Lake when Alicia Alonso herself came on stage to take a curtain call (see We are the dancers, we create the dreams: Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s El Lago de los Cisnes in Havana 8 July 2014). I have never visited Havana but I have seen the National Ballet when it has danced in London and I know the talent and enthusiasm of the dancers. The Cuban people may well have paid a terrible price in terms of political oppression and economic stagnation but it is hard to see how that success could have been achieved without Castro.

I am no fan of Fidel Castro or the political and economic system that he created but I am a fan of Javier Torres, Carlos Acosta, all the other dancers from Cuba in the companies of the world and, above all, Alicia Alonso.

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