Cuban ballet defectors appear in Miami, seek U.S. careers
Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 01:16
June.11 - Six dancers who defected over the weekend from the famed National Ballet of Cuba appear in Miami and discuss their plans in the United States. Sarah Toms reports.
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This is the second major defection of Cuban ballet dancers in the United States in just over a year.
At a press conference in Miami six dancers from the famous National Ballet of Cuba said they'd considered defecting for some time.
. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) DANCER CARLOS IGNACIO PONCE SAYING:
"I was thinking of the future above all. How it would be to live here. This is a country of many opportunities, which isn't how it is in Cuba. No, just thinking about the future and helping my family. That is the most important."
Aged between 21 and 24, the dancers had been performing in Puerto Rico before abandoning the tour on Sunday and flying to Miami.
A seventh dancer also defected but stayed in Puerto Rico.
(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) DANCER YAIMA MENDEZ RIVERO SAYING:
"I decided to take the big step when the opportunity arose. Then my uncle went in February for my birthday and we planned everything without any problem. And the company went to Puerto Rico on [June] fourth, and so he went on the fourth to Puerto Rico with me, just three blocks from me, from the Hilton. And he picked me up Saturday. And Saturday after 4pm, I was already in Miami. It was very difficult for the family in Cuba, a big step. But at the same time I am very happy because I believe my dreams can come true."
Cuba is one of the world's top producers of ballet talent but dancers are restricted from working abroad. Some -- like these dancers -- leave the island frustrated by lack of opportunity, and lured by higher paying salaries.
In Cuba soloists enjoy privileged lives but they earn modest salaries of $10 to $30 a month.
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