February 6, 2010 / 1:15 AM / 10 years ago

Bolshoi Ballet dancers to perform in Cuba

HAVANA (Reuters) - Members of Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet will perform in Havana’s Karl Marx theater next week in their first appearance on the island in 30 years, Cuba’s state-run press said on Friday.

Dancers of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet perform 'Espartaco' during a dress rehearsal at the Royal Theatre in Madrid September 4, 2009. REUTERS/Juan Medina

The return of the Bolshoi comes as part of a renewal of relations between Cuba and Russia, who were Cold War allies for three decades before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Cuban press said dancers from the Bolshoi and the Cuban National Ballet will perform pieces from ballets such as “Giselle” and “The Nutcracker” on February 13 in conjunction with the annual Havana International Book Fair, which this year features Russian writers and artists.

The reports did not say how many Bolshoi members would perform, but among those listed were principal dancers Anna Antonicheva, Dmitry Belogolovtsev and Galina Stepanenko. The company last performed in Cuba in 1980, they said.

The Cuban National Ballet is led by 89-year-old ballet legend Alicia Alonso, who has helped popularize ballet in dance-mad Cuba and trained a number of Cuban dancers now performing in companies abroad.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will lead a delegation to the opening of the book festival during a three-day visit starting February 11, officials said this week.

He is the latest in a series of Russian leaders to stop in Cuba, and Cuban President Raul Castro went to Russia last year.

In recent years, the two countries have signed a range of economic and diplomatic accords, including an agreement by Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft in November to explore for oil along Cuba’s northern coast.

Russia was communist-run Cuba’s biggest benefactor until their alliance ended with the Soviet Union’s fall.

Relations went cold for a time, but are warming again as part of a diplomatic offensive in Latin America by Russia, which wants more political and economic ties with the region.

The Bolshoi’s appearance follows performances in Havana last July by Britain’s Royal Ballet.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Eric Beech

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