Presided by the legendary Alicia Alonso, the Festival will run October 28 through November 6.
The 26th International Ballet Festival of Havana includes a special program this year to “honor the past, celebrate the present, and reflect on the future.”
This beautiful and simultaneously challenging concept was explained by Heriberto Cabezas, general coordinator of the Festival, and head of the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) public relations department, in an interview with GI.
This program imbues the event with new color…
This year we have anniversaries to celebrate and this has conditioned the Festival a little. First of all, is an anniversary that is not the most publicized and yet, for us, it is the most important. It’s like the big bang – from there everything else emerged – it’s the 75th anniversary of Alicia Alonso’s debut in Giselle. If that had not happened, Alicia would not have become a star and would not have founded, in 1948, the company that first carried her name and today is the National Ballet of Cuba.
How is the Festival organized?
From the point of view of organization, it’s curious because each year we face a challenge – the writer faces the blank page and we are faced with a blank program, and say: What are we going to do? And with the resources we have, because we can’t dream as big as other festival directors, who spend their time traveling the world, choosing what they want for their festivals. Logically, we don’t have the financial capacity to choose. When it comes to coordination, we start from a concept that helps us get the ball rolling in the search for artists, because we don’t accept anyone who wants to come. Keep in mind that this is mostly a classical ballet festival, and we must maintain that to a large extent, although we also include some other forms of folkloric, contemporary, and modern dance.
Tell us about the invitations…
Before it was easier, I mean budget-wise. We must remember that the Festival was never interrupted, not even in the most financially difficult moments of the ’90s, due to the determination of Alicia Alonso and the willingness of the country to support it. The titanic task of organizing and securing those needs was at that time very hard, and still is. In all festivals around the world, artists are paid expenses, transportation, lodging, food, and for their work. In our Festival, artists are not paid for performances. One may think that this is simple, but we must bear in mind that those who come here are losing potential earnings, and artists live off these. They really make a big effort. They come to gift the public with their art.
And are there many who want to come to Havana…
In this task of inviting and convincing, I have two great aids: the first is Alicia Alonso, and citing BNC historian Miguel Cabrera, her “rallying gift” is real, she had it and still has it – her name opens doors. And second, the Cuban public. The greatest reward that the artists who come to perform at the Festival have is the applause of an audience that knows ballet. In other places, who goes to see the ballet? The people who have the money to pay for the expensive tickets. Here, thanks to a policy of the Revolution to make culture accessible to all, we know that there is a large mass of spectators knowledgeable about the art of ballet, and that is the greatest prize artists receive.