Monday, July 13, 2009

Royal Ballet from England dance in Havana to honor Alicia Alonso.

Royal Ballet dancers are due tomorrow to start a five-day programme which the Cuban government has billed as a landmark cultural event. Tickets are sold out and at least three of the performances will be shown on big screens outside the Gran Teatro in central Havana. Officials from the New York Philharmonic visited the city in recent days to investigate performance venues and logistics following an invitation from the culture ministry, a rare opening to a high-profile US institution.

"With these invitations the Cuban leadership is indicating a desire to expand the field of contact with musical and cultural leaders from the US and EU, which may lead to greater diplomatic contact down the road," said Dan Erikson, author of the Cuba Wars and an analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue.

The Obama administration has responded in kind by granting the orchestra an exemption from the draconian US embargo, a four-decade old policy designed to isolate the island. Vice-president Joe Biden said the proposed trip was a "wonderful project", Zubin Mehta, the orchestra's president, told the New York Times.

London's Royal Ballet Director Monica Mason (L) attends a news conference with Kevin O'Hare, administrative director of Royal Ballet, in Havana July 11, 2009. View Photo »

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