Performing Arts

Cuban defectors show promise in debut at Fillmore Miami Beach

The six Cuban dancers who defected from the National Ballet of Cuba in April made their U.S. debut as independent artists Saturday night at the Fillmore Miami Beach, in a showcase produced by the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. What these young dancers want, of course, is not to remain free agents, but to get jobs with ballet troupes here.

Judging from Saturday’s performance, three of them have excellent prospects. Randy Crespo, in the Le Corsaire pas de deux, and Victor Santana, in Diana and Acteon, danced with exciting athleticism and flair. And Arianne Martin, with a lovely physique and line, glowed with potential in Corsaire. The other three were less exceptional.

While the new exiles have said one of their reasons for defecting was to dance repertory other than familiar classics, the program consisted of well-known pas de deux and excerpts from famous ballets. The Cuban Classical Ballet, directed by Pedro Pablo Peña, produces the International Ballet Festival in the fall, but as a separate entity exists primarily to showcase Cuban dancers and style. Saturday’s show also included several generations of Cuban guest artists from various companies, performing for a sparse but enthusiastic audience. But the quality and styles of these varied Cuban dancers were so different there wasn’t much to be gleaned about classical dance on the island.

With her long, beautifully shaped legs and line, exactly placed technique, and joyful lyricism, Martin was lovely in Corsaire. She was somewhat uncertain and passive in the opening Bayadere Suite, seeming more like an accomplished student than a full-fledged ballerina – perhaps a case of nerves or youth (she’s only 20). Her partner Edward Morgado’s performance also seemed tense and unfinished.

Annie Ruiz Diaz, who had been a soloist with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, was less compelling. With sturdy thighs and torso, Diaz is quick and strong, showing 180 degree extensions, sharp turns and steady balance in the coy Harlequinade pas de deux and the bravura Diana and Actaeon, where she whipped off an impressive series of attitude turns and fouettes. But she showed little in the way of movement quality or musicality.

Josue Justis Brito was elastic, clean and witty in Harlequinade. Crespo, as the high-leaping spirit invading Analay Saiz’ dreams in Spectre, needed a richer sculptural quality throughout his body, not just his spiraling arms, and cleaner feet to go with his strong jumps. But he was exciting in Corsaire, with thrilling leaps and smoothly spinning turns. Santana was even more dynamic in Actaeon, carving body-tilting shapes into high-flying leaps, with one or two wild finishes.

Veteran guest ballerina Alihaydeé Carreño, niece to famed Cuban danseur Jose Manuel Carreño, was stiff, stilted, and entirely lacked the necessary buoyancy for the spritely Flower Festival in Genzano (though her partner Raydel Caceres was exact and clean), and she was painfully tense and melodramatic in Dying Swan.

The most accomplished performance was by Brazilian ballerina Roberta Marquez, of England’s Royal Ballet, in the Sleeping Beauty pas de deux, partnered by the confident and powerful Arionel Vargas (another Cuban) of the English National Ballet. Marquez danced with rich characterization and purity, showing us a delighted and regal young woman glowing with joy, illuminated through beautifully detailed classical style. The young Cuban defectors would be lucky to end up like her.