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1993. One Giselle and 10 ballerinas. 18 years later...

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It was 1993, and Havana was going through one of its darkest-(if not THE darkest)- periods in history. We no longer had Uncle Stiopa with us. Blackouts happened all the time, all day long, or even worse, all night long. I was living in the student dorms of Havana University, in a 23rd floor, where the elevator would break for several weeks at the time, and where one should lift a bucket of water all the way up if wanting to take a “shower”. Sometimes all we students had to eat before going to bed was water mixed with some sugar. Buying a slice of pizza in a cafeteria would mean 4 or 5 hours in long long lines, and I was down to 120 pounds at almost 6 feet tall.

But then something happened. One night I was asked to go to the ballet with a friend. It was a celebration of the 150 anniversary of the most beloved ballet for Cubans, Giselle, and a spectacular gala was to be presented. The night of the performance me and my friends gathered among some other hundreds of people- (of course the performance had been sold out in 30 minutes)-around the lateral door of the theater. I will never forget this, because when it was announced that the theater was full packed, the angry mob started forcing the big wooden doors until they gave up open. We all ran upstairs and gathered like sardines in the upper galleries. Cops came over and threatened to evacuate the place. Nobody moved and they were even booed, until they too gave up.

And then the magic happened. Giselle, once more, came out onstage to fall in love and die for Albrecht…and for us.

This performance has a special meaning in my heart, and I'm sure in everyone else who was lucky to be there. The thing is that the company had decided to employ ALL of their Principal ballerinas in the leading role and that of Myrtha, along with others that had been fighting for the title and never got it, due to...well, lack of justice. For only one time, we could see all our favorite goddesses dancing our most beloved ballet in one night. It was PANDEMONIUM. There were our sacred “"Four Jewels", the very pillars of the company and each one of them with a very specific public of their own- (Josefina, Aurora and Loipa-(for some reason I can’t remember Mirta, but I think she wasn’t dancing anymore by then…). Aurora, the meanest Myrtha and most sordid Odile I’ve ever seen; Yuyi,…the WHITE SWAN "per se"-(hands down)-, Loipa, the best Grahn ever to grace the Lorca stage- (that I remember). Then…the “"Three Graces"”-(Rosario, Amparo and Ofelia...controversial as they were for never being recognized during the height of their active career, among then the very “"black sheep"” of the company: Charin, the only dancer whom I witnessed could make you forget EVERY performance of ballet you had ever seen before…Alonso’s included and Ofe, the best Kitri ever...sorry Viengsay). There were the supreme technicians of the company, the one and only Martha Garcia- (never surpassed by ANYONE in pure strong technique)-and on and on. Everyone was there..Svieta Ballester, Gladys Acosta -(the best instep of the Cuban company). Even a very young Lorena Feijoo was there. Back then I barely knew who they were-(my more experienced friends were going insane with their appearance and dissapearance onstage...suddenly Josefina was doing exquisite pique turns and next thing you knew it was Loipa pirouetting like there was no tomorrow...you could barely keep track of who was who, as they were all dressed the same. Still, I felt that I was witnessing some fine performances. Mme. Alonso came onstage to do three segments...the mad/death scene of Act I and from Act II the entrechats sequence and the final scene. All this was the same with the male dancers...all the Principals were used-(still...Havana had always been a "ballerina thing", I think all they way until Carreno came over, a change that finally got fully materialized with Carlos Acosta and Sarabita, who made clear that the women would had to fight harder to keep being the only Queen Bees onstage.

I can’t describe in words what I felt that night. If anything, all I can say is that from that moment on I established the parameters of what a REAL ballet performance should be. I realized then and there that the magic of a performance is not just one way-(onstage down)-, but TWO ways. Not only were THEY performing up there for us. They made us feel that we WERE also part of that...that we WERE also performing FOR THEM...that they ALSO NEEDED that performance from us, and they KNEW what we were doing and so they felt obliged to reciprocate that performance. They danced, we whistled...…they mimed, we laughed or cried...…they smiled at us, we smiled at them...…they knelt, we stood up...…they didn’t wanted to leave the stage, we didn’t wanted to leave the theater…. They knew that that mass of people were there filled with problems and material scarcities and shortages. But they knew they could give us hope…and they did. When those ARTISTS came onstage they gave it ALL...they were there FOR US...and we KNEW IT.

Years have passed by and I still want to feel that again.… I constinuosly search for that performance every time I go to the ballet. No, there are not more blackouts and no more hunger on this side, but at the same time, I haven’t been able to “see” that magic ever again.

For all those men and women who made us feel special during those times here is my deepest respect, and be this little post my humble tribute.

GRACIAS!! :bow:

First, Divine Mme. Josefina Mendez-(RIP) partnered by Jorge Vega. Lovely Miss Amparo Brito-(at 1:50). FEARLESS Miss Martha Garcia -(at 2:41). Mme. Loipa Araujo at 3:52 partnered by Lienz Chang.

The ONE AND ONLY Miss Charin in Giselle's Pas Seul.

Gallope. Gladys Acosta-(best instep of the company) 2nd from left. Lorena Feijoo third from left. Mme Alonso taking her place for the Mad/Death Scene at 1:55.

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Clip # 4-Mme Alonso's Mad/Death Scene.


Clip # 5- Mme. Aurora Bosch-(whom I ADORE on and offstage...a CLASS ACT LADY and the longest legs of the Cuban Company)- in Myrtha's entrance and first variation. Miss Svetlana Ballester Akimova from 4:22 on .

Clip # 6- Svieta Ballester is Myrtha. Mayde Pena doing Moyna's variation. Aymara Cabrera is Zulma-(a beautiful dancer whose career got-[unfairly]- cut off too soon, and who did the BEST renverses I've EVER seen in this variation).

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