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Cuba cashes in on its talent for music, dance and show biz. (Culture).

Until 1959, Havana was the hotspot of the Caribbean for nightclubs and Las Vegas-style shows, with U.S. tourists flocking to the Capri, Havana Riviera, Hotel Nacional and, of course, the famous Cabaret Tropicana, to see the beautiful mulatto dancing girls and their feathers.

The revolution put an end to all that, along with the banning of casinos, prostitution and pornography. As a consequence, interest in nightclubs and cabarets declined.

For many years, low-budget productions, with shabby clothing by international standards, predominated--especially during the economic crisis of the early 1990s.

That began changing in 1994, when Turarte, the Cuban government agency in charge of commercializing music shows, introduced elegant and well-designed clothing and choreography. Officials recognized this as a crucial step in their efforts to push international tourism as the island's economic salvation.

As one of 20 enterprises belonging to Cuba's Ministry of Tourism, Turarte is today managed as a private company. It can import, apply for credit and associate with foreign enterprises to manage tourist facilities in Cuba or abroad, as well as promote and expand business or carry out any activity related to its objectives.

Felipe Morgan, director-general of Turarte, told CubaNews the entity employs 1,576 workers, of which 1,434 are artists, mostly dancers. Its business portfolio includes 46 musical show companies, 177 music groups and another 68 engaging in various art specialties.

TURARTE TURNS A PROFIT

At the end of 2002, Turarte's income totaled $1.75 million, up 14% from 2001, with sales likely to hit $3 million this year. In the first quarter of 2003, said Morgan, revenues totaled $500,000 and profits came to $119,000 (Turarte has never before released its sales figures to the media).

Turarte also has its own in-house clothing factory to manufacture dresses and choreographic elements for the shows.

In 1999, after the Ministry of Foreign Trade authorized Turarte to export its productions, the agency began to market its clothes and designs in other countries. One of its main clients is VMC Productions of Paris, which has shown Cuban-made dresses in Monaco, as well as the Swedish firm Zen-Zen.

Last year, said Morgan, the Spanish firm Atlantic ordered at least 600 dresses for the Tropicana Tenerife cabaret; Turarte has also supplied its designs to the likes of Chayanne and Norma Duval.

The export of artistic services is also a hot item for Turarte. At least 31 companies and an average 270 artists a year are contracted abroad--mainly in Portugal, Germany, Italy, Greece, Mexico, the Bahamas and Canada. For two consecutive years, music shows were sent to Lebanon, and for more than three years Cuban music groups have been performing in India.

Turarte signed a contract in 1997 with Bahamian company Caribbean Spectacular Productions Ltd. to jointly produce a show at the Nassau Marriott Resort & Crystal Palace, performing there until August 1999.

Now the greatest demand is coming from Portugal, where in 2002 a contract of commercial association was signed with Portuguese firm Amorim. This venture made $450,000 in just 10 months of 2002, with plans to make $600,000 this year.

Two new productions will go to Portugal next month, for a total of three companies based permanently in that country.

Turarte also makes money from services rendered to cruise ships visiting Cuba.

At the beginning of this year, Turarte signed a five-month contract with Britain's Partnership Events Entertainment Ltd. for the cruise ship Europa Vision, which plies the Caribbean. Other groups currently perform onboard the SS Oceanic and the R-5 for the Spanish firm Pullmantur Cruises Ltd.

Recently, a show with 13 Cuban artists performed, under contract with Malaysia's Genting Entertainment Sdn. Bhd., on the Superstar Leo and Superstar Piscis cruise ships for four months.

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFERS FEW DETAILS

Music and dancing are a Cuban's second skin and it seems to be contagious, because people everywhere, even in Asia, are dancing to the island's tunes.

That's helped Cuba generate more foreign exchange from the sale of music. In addition, ballet and folklore summer courses for foreigners have increased hard-currency income substantially for cultural institutions.

Four-time Grammy winner Chucho Valdes is heading two jazz events, the Joyazz (Nov. 27-30) for young talents and the Matanzas Jam Session (Dec. 17-20), which will attract well-known names from the U.S. and Europe.

A dancing landmark of this country is the Rueda de Casino, which is now popular in places as far away as Malaysia and Indonesia. In fact, Asia will likely send more participants to the International Contest of Ruedas de Casino (Aug. 8-12) than any other continent, said Adalberto Alvarez, director of one of Cuba's most popular orchestras.

In mid-November, the Drum Festival will take place under the direction of Giraldo Piloto, manager of the musical group Climax, together with the Institute of Popular Music. Players like Dave Garibaldi, Luis Conte and Chuck Silberman will likely attend, as well as others from Brazil, Canada, Italy and Sweden.

Abel Acosta, Cuba's vice-minister of culture, has announced that all these concerts will be open to the general public--thus acceding to one of the demands frequently made by foreign musicians performing in Cuba.
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Title Annotation:government-owned production company Turarte; revenues generated by musical productions
Publication:CubaNews
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:853
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