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Coppélia -- Ballet Nacional de Cuba

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I was so pleased to read the review of Friday's mixed bill of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba's appearance in Chicago (unfortunately, we had another commitment that night).

This afternoon's Coppélia was an absolute delight. The ballet is such an old standard that one might believe there is little life in it anymore, but this performance proved such thinking wrong.

The opening set is a valentine. I have also never witnessed so many well-rehearsed mazurka and czardas dancers in a ballet company, and I've seen many (and even performed in one or two).

Lorna Feijóo as Swanilda was a phenomenon. We are, alas, in an era when far too many technically talented dancers seem to have no idea that they have an audience, but Ms. Feijóo always remembered us and shared with us her infectious love of dancing. Her superb balance, impeccable line, and incredibly swift yet precise footwork were a joy to behold (yes, indeed, she owes a debt to Balanchine because she never dreamed of putting her heels down in the rapid passages).

Her Franz, Oscar Torraldo, was also a delight, with exciting balón, courtly and secure partnering, and elegant footwork.

The Act II dancing dolls were more numerous and more convincing than I have seen before. Swanilda's bolero and jig were beautifully executed. The pas de deux in Act III was silken.

I am not normally given to glowing reviews. I had not even planned on seeing this group, but my husband insisted (thanks to me, he is now a much more committed balletomane than I am); and, he was so very right to insist.

The only negative comments I have are not that extreme. Swanilda's female friends could have been stronger and better rehearsed (their partners, however, were wonderful). In Act III, although both dancers were technically proficient, neither the Dawn nor the Prayer solo moved me, as they certainly can.

Doña Alicia Alonso took a bow, to loud ovations and cries of "Alicia" from the many Cubans in the audience. We were so fortunate to see her years ago, when she was in her sixties, performing an incredibly slow yet wondrous White Swan pas de deux. Her company has obviously learned a great deal from her about clarity, balance, and communication with the audience.

If this troupe is coming your way, I envy you. I would love to see these superb dancers again.

I'm a teacher. If I could be sure I would be able to see the ballet in Havana, I'd be sorely tempted to sign up for one of the pricey new educational tours to Cuba.

Meanwhile, I was happy to read that shoes (badly needed from the well-worn look of some of the dancers' footwear) and T-shirts were donated. These talented and exceptionally well-trained dancers clearly need and deserve far more than they get.

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