Eight National Ballet of Cuba members defect on trip to Puerto Rico

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 June, 2014, 4:24am


Seven Cuban ballet dancers who defected over the weekend while on tour in Puerto Rico would take the stage next week with a Miami-based troupe, the American company said.

The Cuban dancers will perform on Sunday with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami less than a week after fleeing the National Ballet of Cuba after a performance in Puerto Rico.

The founder and artistic director of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, Pedro Pablo Pena, has in the past been supportive of dancers who choose to leave the country.

"This company is meant to be a platform for these dancers, so they can leave Cuba but continue their careers in the United States," Pena said on Tuesday.

The exact number involved could not be confirmed by US officials in San Juan, but media reported there were eight.

Three of the dancers, Monica Gomez, Carlos Ignacio Galindez and Raisel Cruz arrived in Miami from Puerto Rico on Saturday.

Three others, Jorge Oscar Sanchez, Ariel Soto and Liset Santander, followed on Monday, the Miami Herald reported.

The seventh dancer, Yaima Mendez, who was the first to defect, arrived in Miami before the second group of three in unclear circumstances.

The eighth, Gineth Fernandez, was still in Puerto Rico and due in Miami soon, Galindez said.

The group cited economic and not political reasons for leaving Cuba.

"Young people just have no future in Cuba," Cruz said, and Galindez agreed.

"I am the oldest son. I have to help my family and over there it was impossible," he said.

Cubans typically earn the equivalent of about US$20 a month. President Raul Castro, 83, has refused any political opening, and the state still holds strong controls most of the crippled Soviet-style economy.

Sunday's gala performance honouring Russian ballet is to feature celebrated prima ballerina Lorena Feijoo, who herself defected from Cuba years ago.

Puerto Rico is a mostly Spanish-speaking nation in the Caribbean, meaning Cubans can stay and seek US residency if they arrive there. They also can easily travel to Miami or elsewhere in the US.

The delegation that travelled to San Juan included more than 50 people, including the Cuban ballet company's legendary director Alicia Alonso, 92.

The visually impaired prima ballerina returned to Cuba from New York just after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

The successful company Alonso founded was for decades a centrepiece of the cold war cultural offerings of Cuba.