This evening I participated in a public round table discussion at Gala Hispanic Theatre on the topic “Cuban Cultural Exchange Today.” It’s a fascinating topic as USA/Cuba policy is so dynamic now, and it’s also timely because Viengsay Valdes, Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s prima ballerina, just arrived to guest with us in Don Quixote.
The panel was organized by my good friend James Early of the Smithsonian Institute and Patricia Prego, the First Secretary of the Cuban Interest Section (the equivalent of the Cuban Embassy, but as we do not have diplomatic relations with Cuba the delegation is technically the Cuban Interest Section of the Swiss Embassy.) Other panelists included movie star Danny Glover, who has long been interested in the cultural manifestations of the melding of Cuba and the African Diaspora, as well as Cuban art collector Peggy Cooper Cafritz (whose collection was largely destroyed in the recent fire which destroyed her home!), Hugo Medrano, the Artistic Director of Gala, and other colleagues interested in our changing policies. While all of us are concerned with the cultural arena, and these are not political initiatives, but artistic ones, I know that we are contributing to the body politic by fostering greater understanding between the people of the United States and the people of Cuba, and that as a will for deeper ties develop among people, governments must eventually change policy to reflect that will.
Viengsay’s presence with TWB is significant on multiple levels: She’s a world-renowned artist and will be a terrific Kitri, with her Cuban fire, steely balances and dare-devil turns. She’s also one of the first Cuban artists to be granted an O1 visa by the US (for an artist of extraordinary ability) since 2004. And..she's as sweet as can be. She’ll be dancing Kitri opposite Jonathan Jordan on opening night, and two other shows—Wednesday and Saturday nights. I’ll also be hosting a dance/seminar entitled “Cuban Dance Today” on Thursday, October 8 from 6:30-7:30 here at our studios. We’ll be watching Viengsay and Laura Urgelles dance and then I’ll lead a discussion about the Cuban ballet tradition including juicy gossip about what’s going on now.
Preparations for Don Q proceed.The company is looking great, with performances deepening daily. Russian ballerina Larissa Ponomorenko is here this week coaching the company and her use of torso, dynamic, ports de bras, and control inspires. Two weeks to go!