Alicia Alonso’s Ballet Nacional de Cuba in performance is one of the must-sees in any Havana tour. I attended a conference in Cuba in November, which allowed me to see not only her company at the magnificent Gran Teatro de La Habana, but also that of Roberto Chorens and her daughter Laura’s Ballet “Laura Alonso,” in conjunction with Teatro Lirico Nacional de Cuba in the Teatro Nacional.
The Teatro Lirico Nacional de Cuba & Ballet “Laura Alonso” offered a mixed program on November 19, 2017. Particularly stunning was the Romeo and Juliet of Ivan M. Alonso — with Niria Elena Alvarez and Vladimir Piedra in astounding balances, striking ballon which means striking cabrioles, and showing a flexibility that resulted in breathtaking arabesques. The dancers were beautifully on point, playing with the tempi in the slow movements, or whipping through the fast in Giselle (choreographed after Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli), in this mixed program. The ballet showcased the strength, balance, and speed, much less litheness, of leads Patricia Hernandez and Luis A Nunez.
Five days later, on November 23, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba performed at the Gran Teatro. The program consisted of the grand pas from Le Bayadere featuring Ariel Martinez and newcomer Barbara Fabelo, the world premiere of Ely Regina Hernandez’ Anyali danced by Annette Delgado, Dario Hernandez, and Adrian Sanchez, and Alicia Alonso’s La Fille Mal Gardée with Chanell Cabrera, Yankiel Vazquez, and Narciso Medina.
In all three pieces, the dancers flaunted their fast, articulate style, making the dance all the more striking. Earlier that morning, I had seen Le Bayadere and La Fille Mal Gardée in rehearsal. In that rehearsal, Felix Rodriguez, one of the ballet masters and a first principal character dancer, put the dancers through their paces. The rehearsal was long, but the dancers seemed to maintain their stamina throughout. The same was true for company class, which I also was fortunate to watch. Identifying many of the same dancers in the performances that evening was exciting and gratifying.
Anyali, however, was the surprise of the evening. The piece featured the eerie music of Ezio Bossso and carried a black and white motif in the costumes and lighting. It featured a stark theme in the movement itself. “Anyali” is both a name and a politicized word and Annette Delgado brought life to both meanings, dancing with the highest confidence and grace.