Ballet as a metaphor for Cuba
The art of ballet comes down to a search for perfection. Dancers and choreographers strive for perfect movement, all the time, for each step. As a visual medium performed to music, the art itself lies in the exact rendering of movements that are completely mastered by the performer while conveying an emotion. In Cuba, however, the dancers are stifled by blindness.
The Imperious Vision of Cuba’s Other Ruler-for-Life. The “other ruler-for-life” is Alicia Alonso, 83. Ms Alonso was, at the peak of her carrer (1940-1960), a Balanchine dancer. Past her prime, she continued to dance lead parts well into her 60s, and has been the ruler of the National Ballet of Cuba since 1960 (she founded the Ballet Alicia Alonso in Cuba in 1950, and changed its name to the National Ballet of Cuba in 1960). Like Castro, the NY Times photo shows her (manicured) finger raised in the air, imperiously. Alonso, who is blind, insists on “neither ceding control of her company nor planning for its future after her death”
But despite Ms. Alonso’s efforts to keep up appearances, her empire shows signs of crumbling beneath her. The company’s repertory is so static – a lovely but unchanging iteration of “Giselle,” “Swan Lake,” “Don Quixote” and “Coppélia” – that one of her top dancers says he has resorted to making up steps to keep himself entertained. The Cuban choreographers who once worked with the company have, for the most part, left or retired, and the company says it can’t afford the work of innovative international choreographers like Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe. Ms. Alonso’s own choreography, in its worst moments, is a bit of a bad joke.
In addition, her dancers have been leaving at an alarming rate – more than 20 in the last few years. Former Ballet Nacional dancers now grace American Ballet Theater, the Boston Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, the Washington Ballet, the Cincinnati Ballet and the Royal Ballet, among others. But she prefers not to acknowledge this diaspora.
Compare that with China, where modern dance has emerged with force
In a country where the arts are expected to support government policy rather than exist primarily as independent forms, China’s still-young and rapidly expanding modern dance has a distinct advantage. It is a wordless means of individual expression, especially open to ambiguity and interpretation.
Openess to ambiguity and interpretation aren’t allowed in Cuba. Alonso rules on.
Val points out an oxymoron.