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Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Washington DC

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I traveled from Florida to Washington DC May 31 through June 5 to see the Ballet Nacional de Cuba at the Kennedy Center. I watched three performances: "The Magic of Dance" (the first two nights), and "Don Quijote" on Friday night.

Big disapointment.

It is sad to see how much talent has left the BNC.

The Magic of Dance was nice.

But Don Quijote was not. Please don't get me wrong: there were a few great moments. But the dancers are so inexperienced. The story line was entertaining with humor rather than dazzling with a display of brilliant and elegant dancing, which is what the Ballet Nacional de Cuba has been known for since the 1970's. Sad.

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The National Ballet of Cuba

Kennedy Center Opera House

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

There is something expectant about a production that is familiar, as a standard by which to compare dancers and other productions. But, this can make life a bit too comfortable. Every now and then, something fresh and culturally removed needs to shake things up a bit.

National Ballet of Cuba director and founder, Alicia Alonzo, with the choreographic assistance of Marta García and María Elena Llorente, has given us a gem. This 1988 re-staging of the Petipa/Minkus' ballet “Don Quixote” isn't simply Spanish: it is Latin. It leaves little cultural context to compare to standard versions, but much to contrast.

Though, the scenic and costume designs directly reflect Spain, this production betrays a Latino sensibility that seems more authentic for Cuban dancers. The story takes place in a town on the plains of La Mancha, but it could just as easily be Havana. The hysterical Javier Sánchez as Sancho Panza could have entered stage whilst smoking a cigar, without much surprise!

Though, it would have been wonderful to witness the mastery of Viengsay Valdés, extremely pleasing was the sharp Sadaise Arencibia as Kitri. Though, I was hoping for cleaner fifth position plie's preparing her tour en dehor, her turns and balances were amazing. Her acting and musicality spoke the abbreviated story with clarity. Arencibia's partner, Alejandro Virelles is one of those classicists who seem to come from the tradition of retired Cuban Ballet principal Jorge Esquivel; a strong dancer who reserves the light for his ballerina. Also in his variations, there was a sense of withholding, not doing too much to distract, even though “Basilo” must be a bit of a showoff, attempting to retain Kirtri's affections. Particularly notable was José Losada as the lead Toreador, Espada, who's shocking grande allegro and multiple turns looked improbable with such a lean body.

If the Cubans were simply to mount the same Gorsrsky/Fadechev production that much of the world knows and loves, they may risk wearing a Russian garment that does not fit. Thus, this “Don Q” works for them, and they should be quite proud of it.

© Philip S. Rosemond 2011 Re posted here in delay, from a closed blog.

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