Ballet Royalty and its 12 stellar dancers offered a gala in the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana’s García Lorca Hall with a program featuring various pas de deux from its classical repertory and two contemporary pieces.
In attendance at the one-off performance, which took place August 20, was prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso, director general of the National Ballet of Cuba.
In a press conference held in the Theater’s Lecuona Hall prior to the gala, Cuban-born Rodrigo Almarales, lead dancer of the Cincinnati Ballet and artistic director of the gala, read out what he had written for the beautiful program: “My earliest childhood memories are linked to this theater, when I used to come here as a small boy to watch my parents dance. This was the seed of my destiny…”
For Almarales, “Cuba and Havana have been references for world dance and ballet and this theater is a sacred temple to the art. This small island has entered into global ballet consciousness.”
Rodrigo Almarales, lead dancer at the Cinccinnati Ballet, with Misa Kuranaga rehearsing the pas de deux from Act I of La Sylphide. Photo: Nancy Reyes
In regards to the dancers – figures from a range of companies such as the American Ballet Theater; Russia’s Bolshoi, Kírov and Mijailovsky ballets and the UK’s Royal Ballet – who came together under the name of Ballet Royalty, Almarales highlighted that each has their own style and technique.
Some of the dancers present at the press conference offered a few brief comments, such as Misa Kuranaga, who has danced with the San Francisco, Boston and New York City Ballet and noted that this will be her first time performing a duo with Almarales (La Sylphide pas de deux) which, in addition to her visit to Havana, will be an experience she is surely never to forget.
Mathew Holding from Canada, lead dancer of the UK’s Royal Ballet, stated that he is an “admirer of Cuban ballet, of its discipline, strength and passion on and off the stage,” and in particular the company’s former protagonist, the global star Carlos Acosta, who he described as “one of the greats of our generation, who has greatly influenced mine and many others’ way of dancing, especially in the UK.”
Carlo di Lanno, from the San Francisco Ballet noted that it is “wonderful to be here given the great tradition of Cuban ballet. We are going to show you our style of classical dance.” Di Lanno danced the pas de deux from Bells with Maria Kochetkova, lead dancer at the San Francisco and American Ballet Theater, and the world premier of Paintings Greys, a contemporary piece by Myles Thatcher.
Meanwhile, Joseph Gatti from the U.S. spoke about the Cuban school of ballet’s technique, “one of the strongest in the world,” noting that, “Cuban dancers always inspire me.”
Semyon Chudin from Russia, lead dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet stated that it was “very exciting to be here and to show our art to a public familiar with ballet.” Chudin danced the pas de deux from Act II of Sleeping Beauty and Act II of Giselle, alongside compatriot Jurgita Dronina, lead dancer at the National Ballet of Canada.
Daniil Simkin, also from Russia, and principal dancer at the American Ballet, knewperforming Les bourgeois would be a challenge, givenCarlos Acosta’s masterful interpretation. However, he noted that “Carlos did it, but I’m going to risk it and do it my own way.”
Also practicing their steps during the dress rehearsal were Cuban-born Adiarys Almeida, alongside Gatti and Holding, with the pas de tríos from El corsario, as well as lead dancers from Staatsballett Berlin, Ukrainian Iana Salenko, and Russian Ivan Valisiev from the Mijailovsky and American Ballets in the pas de deux from Act II of Flames of Paris.
The gala program also included the La muerte del cisne danced by Kuranaga, a second contemporary piece entititled Chor. 2,choreographed and performed byRodrigo Almarales and Adiarys Almeida; the pas de deux from the Black Swan and Swan Lake by Salenko and Golding, and to end the show, the pas de deux from Don Quixote danced byKochetkova and Simkin.
According to the event organizers, U.S. company Improvedance fromCincinnati and the Cuban Ministry of Culture’s Performing Arts Council, Ballet Royalty’s visit to the island, under the artistic and general direction of Almarales, represents a kind of prologue to the upcoming Alicia Alonso International Ballet Festival, this year celebrating its 25th edition (October 28-November 6), which brings together stars from the world of dance every two years under the magic of the eminent Alonso.
(By Mireya Castañeda, Granma Internacional)