The Telegraph?s Ismene Brown files a long diary from the Havana International Festival of Ballet and concludes with some striking thoughts on National Ballet of Cuba founder Alicia Alonso:

?I leave torn between extremes of optimism and pessimism. The Cuban Ballet’s structure is built with palpable love, its school feeder system possible only under such a political regime. These are blissfully joyful and carefully trained dancers, and in Alonso they have a great model. But Alonso has now become the problem.

I shut my eyes and imagine a woman pirouetting in the dark, searching for the glow of a light to anchor herself to, inventing a new technique. By visualising inwardly the mechanics and ideals of ballet-dancing, I suspect she pioneered and passed on to today’s Cuban dancers an unmatched command of balance, as well as a unique, old-world gracefulness.

And yet her blindness is blocking creative rejuvenation no less damagingly than the US blockade, driving dancers into unhappiness and even defection.

Ironically, the more walled up it is, the more the Cuban Ballet could mutate merely into a nursery for fine dancers who leave for greater rewards abroad. If that humiliated Castro, I wouldn’t cry, but I would for Alonso, whose vision, impaired as it became, was magnificent.?

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