The Cuban connection.IT'S A MUGGY mug·gy
adj. mug·gi·er, mug·gi·est
Warm and extremely humid.
[Probably from Middle English mugen, to drizzle; akin to Old Norse mugga, a drizzle. day in late June and hundreds of nervous young students have arrived at the National School of Ballet in Old Havana Old Havana (Spanish: La Habana Vieja) contains the core of the original city of Havana. The positions of the original Havana city walls are the current boundaries of Old Havana. to audition. Decked out in their school uniforms of mustard colored skirts or pants over black leotards and tights, the teenagers are lounging or stretching in the marble hallways of this immense building that was once a palace. They are waiting to take a class before a panel of experts who will determine whether they enter the school's intensive three-year program.
"It's not necessary that they show their full ability just yet, only the desire and aptitude," says Juan Antonio Molina, the assistant director of the school. Most of the students have been attending a five-year elementary school elementary school: see school. dance program where they've alternated academic classes with ballet, modem, folkloric, music appreciation, and the like. They dream of eventually joining the Ballet Nacional de Cuba National Ballet of Cuba (Ballet Nacional de Cuba), is managed by Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso and is one of the top ballet companies in the world. The artistic standards and technical severity of the dancers and the wide diversity in the aesthetic , and they know that attending the National School of Ballet is a necessary stepping stone. They also know that performing for the Ballet Nacional can sometimes launch an international career.
Described as a "miracle of the Americas," the first-rate Ballet Nacional de Cuba has impressed critics for decades with its expressive and impassioned dancing, and for ascending to global stature from a small, economically underdeveloped Caribbean island, For many years it's also been providing a steady pool of gifted international stars including Xiomara Reyes Xiomara Reyes is a Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Born in Cuba, Reyes trained at the Cuban National Ballet School. After graduation, she danced as a soloist with "La Joven Guardia," an offshoot of Cuba’s National Ballet. and Jose Manual Carreno, currently principals with American Ballet Theatre American Ballet Theatre, one of the foremost international dance companies of the 20th cent. It was founded in 1937 as the Mordkin Ballet and reorganized as the Ballet Theatre in 1940 under the direction of Lucia Chase and Rich Pleasant. , and Carlos Acosta Carlos Acosta is a Cuban ballet dancer. He has danced with many companies including the English National Ballet as a principal and the National Ballet of Cuba, and is now an international guest artist to much critical acclaim. , who dances with The Royal Ballet Royal Ballet, the principal British ballet company, based at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. It is noted for lavish dramatic productions, a superbly disciplined corps de ballet, and brilliant performances from its principals. . All three graduated from the National School of Ballet.
Twenty-four-year-old Ballet Nacional principal dancer A principal dancer is similar to a soloist in dance. However, principals are hired by a ballet or dance company to perform not only solos, but also pas de deux. A principal may be male or female. Joel Carreno, Jose Manuel's half-brother, says the training at the school, which includes classes in partnering and character dancing Character dancing is performing a dance of ethnic origin generally used in the context of ballet training.
All classical ballets contain slow graceful difficult steps, but often there are interludes in the story where some peasants will enter to perform an exuberant dance. , is challenging. "The professors are very demanding," he says. "They always ask you to do more and to do it very clean. We have to repeat and repeat until we do it well." However he is the one cracking the whip these days, teaching weekly adagio a·da·gio
adv. & adj. Music
In a slow tempo, usually considered to be slower than andante but faster than larghetto. Used chiefly as a direction.
n. pl. a·da·gios
1. and partnering class to the young male students. In fact, all the dancers of the Ballet Nacional are required to teach. When the great Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso founded the company and school in 1962, there was a need for it. But then she realized that "by explaining the step, you learn it better," says 84-year-old Alonso.
Another rule, says Josephina Mendez, a former prima ballerina who continues to teach and rehearse the company, is that dancers must try out all the roles in the ballets to enrich themselves artistically. "When they come into the company," says Alonso, "we teach them the importance of the great classics and every role--from the greatest to the most simple. We don't just explain what they do but why they do it, so artistically they know how to do it."
Critics often remark about how Ballet Nacional dancers linger in balances, sometimes for longer than seems possible. "Because of the climate and our muscles, we dance slower," says Mendez. "Because of our way of life, adagio is easier for us. We work a lot on the placement and turns." She adds, "We also insist that the whole body dances, not just the legs and the arms. It has to come from the center of the body."
This emphasis stems from Cuba's Spanish and African heritage, and the popular and folkloric dances that have evolved out of it, including salsa, rumba, and merengue--dance styles that don't require much floor space to execute. "It all comes out in the torso," says Mendez. "We dance very much from the inside, using everything. We teach them that every step says something. It's not empty. I always ask them to not be a mechanical body."
In performance, the dancers' faces flash with meaning and intention. Part of this is the result of the intensive acting and character training that they undergo while at the school. Part of it stems from Alonso's heavy emphasis on strong communicative partnering. But part of it is also about being Cuban. After one of the other dancers plants an affectionate kiss on his cheek, Carreno says, "Cubans are very warm with each other, and that makes it possible to have the warmth you see in a Cuban dancer."