14ymedio, Havana, 22 January 2019 — The National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) has a new artistic deputy director, Viengsay Valdés, who since 2001 has been its prima ballerina. Alicia Alonso maintains, nominally, the position of general director although, at 97 years old, she is not engaged the regular work of the company. This means, in practice, that Valdés is the leader of the prestigious artistic institution.
According to Cubanet, the decision was made last Friday after a meeting of the Board of Directors with the Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas. Participating in the meeting were Redento Morejón (executive deputy director), Miriam Vila (chair of Dance), Giovanni Duarte (orchestra director), Mauricio Abreu (press and publicity), Dayron Darias (general secretary of the Union of Young Communists), Daylis Moya (legal advice), Heriberto Cabezas (public relations), Salvador Fernández (technical deputy director), María Elena Llorente (head maître) and Miguel Cabrera (historian of the BNC).
At the meeting, the Board of Directors was informed of the forthcoming creation of an Artistic Committee headed by the new deputy director and in which the decisions about the company’s work will be made.
According to sources cited by Cubanet, the decision has set off some turmoil in the bosom of the National Ballet of Cuba, where Valdés is considered a person of strong and individualistic character, although “everyone has always recognized her extreme seriousness, her great capacity for work and her high professionalism, apart from the ‘in group’ and power management, concentrating only on ensuring that what she does has the highest possible quality,” the newspaper said.
It remains to be seen what direction the BNC will take now, not only in the artistic field, but also in matters of major importance from the point of view of civil rights, since the management is responsible for deciding who travels abroad on a tour, for example, a decision that has not always been based strictly on performance criteria.
The artistic institution has suffered, on the other hand, numerous defections. Since 2007, about 40 dancers have applied for asylum in the US and other countries, according to the figures from the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. The artistic director of the company, Pedro Pablo Peña, who died in 2018, insisted that the incessant leak of desertions shows “the absolute discontent” of the artists with the Cuban regime.
In 2014 nine dancers fled in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they were participating in the show The Magic of Dance. Two years later, three more dancers left for the USA, where they debuted just a month after their departure a performance of Giselle, under the direction of Peña.
Valdés has been the National Ballet of Cuba’s prima ballerina since 2001, after a 15-year career that began at the Alejo Carpentier Provincial Ballet School. During the so-called Special Period after the fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of its financial support for Cuba, this young girl with an exotic name, which in the Laotian language means “victory,” graduated with a ‘Golden Title’ from the National School of Art.
Valdés has been a guest star with the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, such as the Marinski Theater Ballet of St. Petersburg; the Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow; the Royal Danish Ballet and the Royal Ballet of London. In 2016 she stood out especially during her performances in the 25th edition of the International Ballet Festival of Havana, held between October 28 and November 6.
An extensive tour of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia completed her 2016 schedule, a year in which she also played the character of Kitri during a season of the classic Don Quixote. The critics said that it was the most emblematic role of the dancer’s wide repertoire.
For all these achievements, 14ymedio chose her one of its 2016 Faces of the Year.
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.