SA-Cuban Ballet Partnership celebrates five years of cultural exchange
South African Mzansi Ballet’s (SAMB) season of the sparkling classic Don Quixote at the Joburg Theatre until Sunday 24 March, has no fewer than five dancers from Cuba in the cast, in addition to distinguished Havana ballet teacher Ana Julia Bermudez de Castro working with the ballet company and with student dancers.
Commenting on the cultural exchange programme with Cuban ballet, SAMB CEO Dirk Badenhorst says that while SA ballet is undoubtedly reaping the benefits of ties with Cuba, it is by no means been “one-way traffic”. “We have been able to provide the Cuban dancers who have been here on extended cultural exchange visits the opportunity to dance roles they are unlikely to do in Cuba and to dance with some of South Africa’s leading dancers.”
SAMB Artistic Director Iain MacDonald reiterates these points, adding that artistically the relationship has been mutually beneficial in the true spirit of cultural exchange and sharing. He went on to say that “it is wonderful to see how it is has come full circle when in days past the male dancers were integral to the success of the productions. It is truly heartening to see the standard of male dancing the Cubans bring to the stage.”
The chance to expand their performing opportunities is of value to the Cuban dancers. In Don Quixote, Cuba’s mercurial Javier Monier is not only repeating his showstopping role of the street boy which had audiences cheering Mzansi Productions’ Don Quixote in 2011 but will also be dancing the male lead of Basilio for the first time in his career. Mr. Monier partners SA ballerina Angela Maree on Saturday 23 March at 7.30pm.
Also coming to the virtuoso role of Basilio for the first time is Randol Figueredo who won a silver medal at the 2012 Cape Town International Ballet Competition, while the ebullient Luis de Castro and Ramiro Samón feature prominently in Don Quixote. Mr Figueredo has the distinction of partnering eminent SA ballerina Burnise Silvius on Saturday 16 March at 7.30pm and Friday 22 March at 7.30pm.
Luis de Castro is also bringing his talents as a teacher – following in the footsteps of his mother, Ana Julia Bermudez de Castro – to his work in SA, working with students of the Johannesburg-based SA Cuban Ballet School as well as with professional dancers of South African Mzansi Ballet.
The only woman among the visiting Cuban dancers is vivacious Claudia Monja whose warmth and generously spirited dancing has been endearing her to Johannesburg audiences.
Offering a Cuban perspective on the SA-Cuba ballet partnership, visiting National Ballet of Cuba teacher Ana Julia Bermudez de Castro said: “A cultural exchange programme like the one between Cuba and South Africa offers tremendous advantages to all involved. The importance for South Africa is that it gives South African dancers the opportunity to learn a new technique from one of the most important ballet methods in the world while at the same time our Cuban dancers are gaining an enormous amount of professional performing experience by being in the productions of South African Mzansi Ballet and sharing the stage with their South African counterparts.”
Don Quixote is the first production to be presented by South African Mzansi Ballet following the finalization of the merger between Mzansi Productions and The South African Ballet Theatre that began in 2011.
Contact: Lindsay McDonald 011-877 6900
Samantha Saevitzon 011-877 6899
Photos: Claudia Monja as Mercedes and Javier Monier as Criado in South African Mzansi Ballet’s DON QUIXOTE.
Photos courtesy of SAMB