American Ballet cleared for Cuba trip
President Barack Obama's administration has granted permission for the American Ballet Theatre to perform in Cuba, clearing the way for the company's first performance in Havana in 50 years.
The last time the New York-based company performed in Havana was in 1960 at an inaugural event at the Karl Marx Theatre. That was just before the U.S. embargo and travel restrictions to Cuba went into effect.
The American Ballet Theatre will perform at the Havana International Ballet Festival in November. This year the festival pays tribute to Alicia Alonso, founder of the National Ballet of Cuba and a former principal dancer with the New York company.
American Ballet executive director Rachel Moore spoke at a Havana press conference Tuesday to announce the tour.
"I can't speak for the politics, but I do believe that the arts are a tremendous bridge between communities," she said.
"Dance is an art form that doesn't require a knowledge of language, so it's a great way to bridge between two communities who don't speak the same language," she added.
It took more than a year of filling out forms and negotiating with the State Department and U.S. Treasury to win permission to travel to Cuba, Moore said.
And there are still restrictions that make it difficult for the company to finance its trip.
"We are not allowed to have any sponsors under our licence, so we are not allowed to bring any sponsors with us, and we won't," Moore said.
To afford the trip, their company's hosts are covering accommodation and other expenses for the dancers.
The American Ballet has itself been able to cover the cost of flying the troupe to Havana.
Similar restrictions on sponsorship forced the New York Philharmonic to cancel its planned trip to Cuba last year.
There are reports in the U.S. that further easing of restrictions on cultural exchanges with Cuba may be announced by the Obama administration this summer.
American Ballet will perform scenes from ballets including Alexei Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas and Fancy Free by Jerome Robbins on Nov. 3 and 4.
Alonso visited New York this spring to celebrate her 90th birthday with ABT, where she danced from 1943 to 1948.
With files from BBC reporter Michael Voss