Six dancers of the National Ballet of Cuba who arrived in Miami after defecting and crossing the Mexican border are certain they will make their dreams come true in the United States.
Thursday morning, they arrived at Miami’s Hispanic Cultural Center for the Arts, better known as “The House of Ballet,” ready to take their first class in exile with Colombian professor Eriberto Jiménez.
“Miami is a city that could swallow you,” said Luis Víctor González, 23, who arrived Sunday with Ariadni Martín, Annie Ruiz Díaz, and Randy Crespo, three days after the arrival of Josué Justiz and Edward González. A seventh dancer, Alejandro Méndez, 20, is still in Mexico, according to The Associated Press.
González, who had gone on world tours with the National Ballet, said he defected because he thought it was his time and he wanted “to grow artistically and financially.”
Justiz, 20, “thanked God for having been born in a country that has one of the best dancing schools.” Thus, he has no fear of confronting the competition “in any company in the world.”
His stepfather, Eduardo Sánchez, said that Justiz’s arrival did not surprise him. “Josué is very happy. This is the right step. He has been fighting since he was 8 years old, and it was time for him to jump. Now he is where he is supposed to be,” said Sánchez, a UPS employee who has been in Miami for three years.
The group planned the escape in Havana, according to González.
“We feared being discovered. However, we agreed to complete all the Giselle performances in order to fulfill our role with the company,” said the 20-year-old.
After arriving in Miami, González learned that his mother, Nancy Morgado, who worked in the National Ballet’s wardrobe department, resigned from her job, fearing retaliation.
Crespo, 22, had been with the company for five years. For him, his decision represents a “great challenge.”
“We have arrived in a country with a lifestyle totally different from that of Cuba, and perhaps we will not be able to perform as dancers,” Crespo said. “But we are willing to do what it takes.”
Crespo said that among his company colleagues who returned to Cuba “there are different opinions” about the dancers who defect. “I know that there are many who support us, some don’t and other feel nostalgic for us,” the dancer said.
“Our families knew it, and word had reached us that the State Security knew that there was a group that would not return,” Crespo said. “Which is why we were alerted [when defecting] not to fly to Laredo from the airport in Cancún because they would be watching us.”
The exodus of ballet dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba is nothing new. Ever since the first tours by the company in the early years of the Cuban revolution there were defections in different parts of the world from groups led by the legendary ballerina Alicia Alonso. One of the first took place in Paris in 1966, when 10 dancers slipped away from State Security agents and requested political asylum.
“It’s young talent that needs to vibrate and widen their artistic horizons,” said Pedro Pablo Peña, director of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, the International Ballet Festival of Miami, and the Hispanic Cultural Center for the Arts. “They are all very good dancers because they come from a school that promotes excellence.”
Peña announced that in May the dancers will perform at The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater.