This week Cuba begins welcoming the ballet ambassadors of the world to Alicia Alonso's 22nd International Ballet Festival in Havana, and this year, the U.S. government will allow two of the country's world class companies to participate. While the frosty U.S.-Cuba undiplomatic relations may show signs of thawing, the relationship between Cuban ballet artists and this country's ballet community has always been warm and welcoming. Cuba's development and contribution of some of the world's greatest ballet dancers has continued in spite of political turmoil, estrangement, and the country's extreme poverty. Where governments and politicians divide people, the ballet unites them. The world's gratitude for the Cuban culture's creation of Carlos Acosta, Jose Manuel Carreno, Xiomara Reyes, and many other great artists will never be diminished by anyone's political agenda.
The festival schedule on its website shows that over the next couple of weeks the Cuban people will be treated to performances by NYCB's Tiler Peck, Joaquin de Luz, Jared & Tyler Angle, Abi Stafford, Andrew Veyette, and Teresa Reichlen in a pastiche of repertory and PdDs that includes music by Gershwin, Sousa, and Kay – music that was intensely popular during Alicia Alonso's richest dancing years. In addition to its two night rep program of Theme and Variations, Seven Sonatas, Fancy Free, Le Corsaire PdT, and Diana and Acteon PdD, ABT will participate in the concluding gala performances. Jose Manuel Carreno and Sarah Lane will perform Tharp's Sinatra Suite, and Marcelo Gomes and Paloma Herrera will perform Balanchine's Tchaikovsky PdD. The U.S. companies' contribution to the festival will be heavenly, but by no means will it be dominant.
Ms. Alonso has extra special tributes planned for the late Galina Ulanova and the vibrant Vladimir Vasiliev, full length Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Giselle and Swan Lake productions, guest appearances by Tamara Rojo, Nehemiah Kish, Vladimir Malakhov, Jason Reilly, Guillaume Cote, Heather Ogdon, Roberta Marquez, Steven McRae, and much more. Perhaps the defining moment of the festival will be the appearance of Vasiliev and Alonso together on the stage of the Grand Theater of Havana exemplifying ballet's great, great past leading us into the future.