May 20, 2009 / 11:13 PM / 9 years ago

England's Royal Ballet to make first Cuba visit

HAVANA (Reuters) - England’s Royal Ballet will make its first visit to Cuba in July with performances that include a homage to Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso, ballet executives said on Wednesday.

Dancers from The Royal Ballet rehearse 'The Nutcracker' at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in central London December 12, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The Cuba visit came about in part because the Royal Ballet’s principal guest dancer, Carlos Acosta, is a Cuban and was anxious to perform in his home country, administrative director Kevin O’Hare said.

“He said it would be the highlight of his career to bring the company to Cuba,” O’Hare said.

He said the Cuban government had supported the visit.

“It really just came out of the Royal Ballet taking this on board, deciding this is what we want to do for the company,” O’Hare said.

“Because of the heritage of their national ballet, there is probably no other place in the world that has a love of classical ballet like Cuba,” he said.

The communist-led island also has been one of the top producers of male dancers in recent years, O’Hare said.

The company, which will bring 96 dancers to Havana, is scheduled to perform four pieces, one of which will be a tribute to Alonso and include dancers from the Cuban National Ballet, he said.

Alonso, 88, who danced in the United States and Europe, has led the Cuban ballet since shortly after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution.

Acosta, considered one of the top dancers in the world, was her student before leaving Cuba.

The Royal Ballet, which is based at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden, will perform at the Gran Teatro de Havana and Karl Marx Teatro on July 14-18.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Jim Loney

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