June 11, 2014 (With information from El Nuevo Herald and EFE) – The number of dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba who have defected to the United States has increased to nine. Jaime Reytor joins the eight members of the company that fled last weekend in Puerto Rico and are already in Miami. The artists revealed Wednesday that they decided to defect from the island because “there is no future for young people.” They will perform next Sunday with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami at a gala dedicated to the Russian ballet.
Eight dancers (Jorge Oscar Sanchez, Raizel Cruz, Carlos Ignacio Galindez, Ariel Soto, Monica Gomez, Yaima Mendez, Lisette Santander and Yinet Fernandez) participated in a press conference organized by the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, in which they described their flight from the City of San Juan in Puerto Rico, where they were to participate in the show “The Magic of Dance,” where the Cuban director of art education, Alicia Alonso, was to be present.
“This is the country of the future. There are many options for work and places to choose from. We came here in order to dance and we will dance,” Jorge Oscar Sanchez, age 23, told EFE. He decided not to return to Cuba but to stay in the United States “in search of opportunities,” despite his sadness “at leaving behind family and friends,” because on the island “there is no future for young people.”
Since 2007, at least 35 dancers have sought asylum in the U.S. and other countries, according to figures from the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. The artistic director of the company, Pedro Pablo Peña, said the steady drip of defections shows “the absolute discontent” of artists with the Cuban regime.
“At first I was a little nervous because it was a very strong impact. It was leaving your family behind to go and find your profession, to be a dancer . . . It’s very hard. I keep thinking about my family,” said Ariel Soto. “They didn’t give us the opportunity of showing us how to reach our potential. I didn’t want to be frustrated because I have a life ahead of me. I’m 23 years old and I want to grow and not stagnate,” he said.
Another dancer, Yaima Mendez admitted that “I’ve been working since I was a child, and could not see the final result of that sacrifice” and that “it always hurts. It’s something very tough, very heavy, but I needed it to fulfill my dreams in a big country.”
According to Raizel Cruz, all dancers in Cuba support the decision of any artist who defects. “I dance, but I come with the mindset of doing anything. Whatever it takes,” he said.
According to the América Tevé channel, Cuban tennis players Randy Blanco (age 21) and Ernesto Alfonso (age 24), who participated in the Davis Cup elimination rounds, also held in Puerto Rico, fled and arrived yesterday at Miami International Airport.
Translated by Tomás A.