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Pas de Trois of Future Stars of Cuba’s National Ballet

Pas de Trois of Future Stars of Cuba’s National Ballet

Posted by PanamericanWorld on June 09, 2016

That afternoon, when he was still a kid, Daniel Rodriguez was making fun of one of his friends because he had decided to participate in the ballet auditions that were taking place at school. “That’s for girls, dude”, he was saying like those who repeat a phrase they have heard a thousand times, but know nothing about its meaning. “Men practice tae kwon do”. 

Daniel loved tae-kwon do, “because it’s tough and strong”- he used to say-.

“Ballet is even tougher”, the friend replies in an effort to stand for his questioned manliness in the group. “If you go there, you’ll fail for sure”. And like those who challenge fate, Daniel easily passed the tests, his friend didn’t. 

“That’s when it all began. My parents didn’t want to hear about me, mom wasn’t willing to take me to the lessons and dad wasn’t even talking to me. I thought about quitting, but you know kids: the more they go against us, the more we like things.” I was 9 years old at the time.

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Daniela Barbara didn’t like gymnastics at all. “Mom, I’m no longer going to do this, I’m quitting it”. Rigorous diets and intense trainings were stopping the girl from spending time with her friends and eating her favorite food. 

- “I you quit gymnastics, you’ll sing up for ballet”. 

Daniela Barbara’s mother had named her after ´Daniela´, a character played in a Mexican soap opera where a young orphan was dreaming about being a ballerina, and ´Barbara´, a saint that tormented for her believes.

- “Ballet?… no way”.

At the very beginning, the girl, whose blood was carrying more Barbara than Daniela, did everything she could against her mother’s intention: she used to skip lessons, eat everything she liked. “But you can’t escape from fate. Some months later, I was proposed to enter the National Art School (ENA), since I was in good physical shape”, she says. Once she was a student at ENA, Barbara decided to join her Daniela side and make the most of the ´blessings´ she had gathered during the unpleasant years of artistic gymnastics.

“It was a lot of work, we had to place particular emphasis on technique, and I suffered from muscular contractions, tore muscles, when trying to keep the right position. You can’t think of any other thing and let’s just don’t talk about diet”. It was my personal torment – she smiles. “But I think that believe that, due to all of those efforts, I discovered that Ballet is what I want in my life.”

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“My parents didn’t want me to be hanging around in the street, doing nothing,” Reinier Diego Balas recalls. “I was just a little kid, but I already knew that I wouldn’t be a scientist or scholar.” 

He was walking along 23rd street and he saw a poster that read ´The provincial art school is summoning dancers to practice ballet´. He knew what ballet was, but becoming a dancer was what attracted him the most. “I suddenly pictured myself dancing on Cuban television- he jokes. “So, I took a look at the requirements –good physical shape, elasticity, presentability – and I told myself, this is my thing”. “I went back home and told my parents that I would take the tests to be a dancer. They didn’t pay much attention to that, since I was 10 years old and.”

- “This is it, food prices are high and he wants to become a ballet dancer,” my mother told my father as a joke.

- “He’ll soon forget about it,” dad answered without looking at me.

“Two weeks later they took me to the auditions, I was accepted and joined the ballet realm.”

Reinier went to the audition hoping that he could change to a different dance discipline once he was at the school. However, at the age of 10 preferences are still being shaped and, by the end of the first year, he decided to try the second one. After all, he was very young and people had told him that ballet is the base of any other dance style. “When I grow, I’ll quit ballet and study popular or contemporary dance”, he told himself at the time. “Then I met him. He came to school, five years ago, and I saw in him everything I ever wanted to be. Carlos Acosta is my paradigm and wanting to be like him helped me take the most important decision of my life, to dance ballet forever.”.

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On Calzada Avenue, in Vedado, there is a building that looks different from the rest of properties in the area. The only common element is Villalon Park, with its columns and classic-style figures.  The venue of Cuba’s National Ballet is a building that has remained frozen in time, it never entered the modern age, and it hasn’t been affected by the contemporary decline of the constructions around it.  

The strong and, at the same time, graceful jumps of dancers resound in the building. Since last year, this building, which treasures one of the most prestigious companies of the world, has silently looked at new faces that are joining the stages. Since last year, Daniel, Daniela and Reinier have been walking along the corridors that once housed Viengsai Valdes, Carlos Acosta and even Alicia Alonso.

They, children turned into dancers (their ages are below 18) have learned the art of making nearly-unnatural movements look simple, the art of walking on the tips of their toes, keeping a perfect balance, being delicate. After ten years of work to adapt both body and mind, they can proudly say that they are first soloists of Cuba’s National Ballet, and three of the most outstanding young members of the company. “We met each other since we were at the ENA, and we’ve always competed to see who does the toughest moves, most rigorous diets, who spends more time rehearsing,” Daniela recalls.

“We still have to improve our technique. We’re just like Olympic athletes: training never ends,” Reinier underscores. And assuming that we all understand what he says, Daniel points out, “Being a good dancer in Cuba is very difficult… that’s why it’s an honor to be a good dancer in Cuba.”

By Yerisleydys Menéndez García and Laura Alonso / PanamericanWorld / Havana

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