February 3, 2014
Ballet in Cuba is a way out of the poverty. Or is it? Accoring to Secundaria, the highly competive National Ballet School opens its arms to dancers of all races and socio-economic stations. These "chosen" students are drilled daily in the classics and folks dance forms. But in the end, even the top male student might not be invited into the National Ballet Company due to racial politics.
Depite that reality, the documentary by Mary Jane Doherty – using a camera crew of one—herself-- provides a wonderful window on the competitive nature of ballet in Cuba. There’s a marvelous contrast between the slim, hard-working dancers and their round, loving mothers. Unlike the prim and reserved mothers seen around the lobby of School of American Ballet, these mothers chatter, sing and dance while waiting for their children. Like a fly on the wall, Doherty made her way inside the dance studios, rehearsals, and competitions and inside the homes of her featured students.
When the school is invited to South Africa to perform, the South African students watch the Cubans rehearse in awe. Mouths agape, they call them dancing machines as they watch little ballerinas rip off six or eight pirouettes or balance on pointe for ever and ever.
I will not reveal too much so as not to ruin the spine tingling end to the documentary. A strong song and dance culture, Cuba raises international caliber dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis