Seven members of the National Ballet of Cuba defect

The seven young members of the internationally acclaimed National Ballet of Cuba who defected last month after a tour in Mexico came to the United States in search of wider artistic horizons, one of them has declared.

The dancers defected “to be in a place where one can grow artistically,” Ariadnni Martín, 20, said during an appearance in the television program Sevcec a Fondo hosted by Pedro Sevcec on America TeVe.

Martin appeared on the program Tuesday along with Annie Ruiz Díaz, 24, Randy Crespo, 22, and Luis Víctor Santana, 23. The other defectors were identified as Edward González, 23, José Justiz, 20, and Alejandro Méndez, 20.

The decision to defect “was hard but we made it firmly, without thinking about the past, only the future,” said Ruiz Diaz.

Crespo said his decision was especially difficult because he’s an only son, but added that he felt he had to make the most of his youth because a ballet dancer’s career is generally short. Ruiz Diaz said she was the only one with family in the United States.

The four said the group agreed to defect while they were still in Cuba, and left when their company performed in Mexico. They set out last month from Chetumal on Mexico’s Caribbean coast and headed north to the border with the United States.

Several Cuban dancers have defected when their companies were abroad, but the National Ballet of Cuba (NBC), home of famed ballerina Alicia Alonso, is considered to be the premiere classical ballet group in Latin America.

In Havana, Ramona de Saá, director of the National Ballet School, confirmed that seven members of the NBC had defected in Mexico and declared, “It hurts us,” according to an Associated Press report.

The AP report also quoted an unidentified official of the NBC as confirming that seven dancers had defected but describing them as “not yet known at the international level.”

De Saá was quoted as saying that six of the seven defectors studied at her school and that one of them had been “like a daughter.”

She also told the AP that some ballet dancers who defect never succeed abroad and wind up working as waiters or returned to a country where the government supports ballet. “We are privileged. In the world of ballet, the situation is difficult,” she noted.

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