Cuban ballet dancers defect in Toronto

The National Ballet of Cuba says five of its members, including one of its leading dancers, have decided to stay in Canada after performing here.

Five members of the National Ballet of Cuba, including one of its leading dancers, have remained in Canada after performing there, dance officials said Wednesday.

National Ballet of Canada spokeswoman Catherine Chang says the five are taking classes with the Canadian ballet in Toronto until Friday, adding that she can't confirm that they have defected.

But an official with the National Ballet of Cuba said the dancers had decided to stay in Canada, but would provide no more details. The official was not authorized to talk to the media on the issue and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The company, which is directed by legendary prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso, had performed Giselle.

Montreal daily The Gazette reported that among the Cubans was a principal dancer, Elier Bourzac, who said he was staying in Canada for "artistic" reasons. The newspaper said the Cubans hoped to join Canadian dance companies.

Many dancers who have left Cuba are climbing to stardom in the United States with companies ranging from American Ballet Theatre in New York to the Boston and the San Francisco ballets.