Havana, World Dance Capital
By Pedro Quiroga Jiménez / Photos by José (Tito) Merino
After ten days of intense hectic activity, dancers, choreographers, critics and important figures in the world of dance from 19 countries who attended the 21 st Havana International Ballet Festival, from October 28th to November 6th, celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Cuban National Ballet (CNB).
For all ballet lovers in the island, this ended a two-year waiting period for a party considered by authorities among the best of the world. Together with foreign guests, the event was once again a place for encounters, discoveries and validations.
Onstage, Flamenco y poesía (Flamenco and poetry) by flamenco dancer Marfa Pages erupted with strength and passion. Cristina Hoyos, also from Spain, well remembered by Cuban audiences for her duet with the late Antonio Gades, again excited the public with her flamenco version of the play Romancero Gitano inspired by Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.
Hoyos also showed her mastery of the art of dance by producing the premiere of her version of Medea.
A classic of romantic ballet, Sleeping Beauty, was reborn by the CNB. The fantasy of France's Charles Perrault was staged at the Grand Theater of Havana in a renewed version by Alicia Alonso of the original by Marius Petipa.
Among the highlights were the beautiful set design and lavish costumes worthy of the virtuosity of the leading roles performed by Viengsay Valdes (Princess Aurora) and Romel Frometa (Prince Desire).
Valdes' performance was considered another tour de force; an act of supreme control implying a command of the dramatic expression of her gestures conveying an innocent, naïve and playful young girl.
Frómeta was praised for the elegance of his arm movements, his polished technique and the lengthy time constantly dancing before the audience.
The festival reached its peak on the sixth day, dedicated to the 65th anniversary of Alicia Alonso's debut dancing Giselle when, some minutes before the start of the show, the legendary dancers, Azari Plisetski, Cyril Atanassoff and Vasili Vasfliev, went on the stage and paid heartfelt homage to their famous partner Alonso.
Alonso recalled November 2, 1943 when, in the old building of the New York Metropolitan Opera House, she turned the classic ballet into one of her main contributions to the restitution of the romantic era and a tribute to the reinvention of a style of which she became the top performer.
In perfect Spanish, Russian-born Azari Plisetsky, displayed a key chain Alonso gave him on September 30, 1963, the day he danced with her for the first time on that same stage. "Dancing with you was not a school. It was going to college" said the artist.
His colleague Atanassoff thanked the famous choreographer in his native French, while Vasiliev spoke emotionally in Russian about how they met when she was already universally famous. "I came, I danced, I received enormous pleasure and later I quit dancing," he said. "But Alicia continued and I can say that is one of my fondest memories."
Another of the outstanding moments was the presenting of the 6th Ibero-American Choreography Contest Award, won by Cuban Tania Vergara for her A los confines de la tierra (At the ends of the earth).
As of next year the award, delivered by the General Society of Authors and Editors of Spain and the CNB, will be named for Alicia Alonso in recognition for her long and vast work promoting ballet.
The presentations by the Teresa Carreno Ballet of Venezuela, the Ballet Teatres from Spain, as well as figures from the Paris Opera, Berlin Opera, the Ballet Estable del Teatro Colon from Argentina, the Royal Danish Ballet and the Korean Kim Sun-hee Company once again proved the words of Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier: "The spirit of dance is inseparable from the human condition ".
In more than 48 years, the Havana International Ballet Festival has brought more than 850 dance compositions to the stage, over 200 of them world premieres, before an audience of more than a million people from the five continents who have gathered in the dance capital to applaud them.