Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cuba: la historia continua

that's right, I am still going on about my holiday in Cuba

House of Ballet
We also went to the ballet in Havana. This was very exciting, as I have never been to proper ballet before. Ballet is huge in Cuba, partly because of the influence of crazy lady Alicia Alonso, a Cuban ballerina and subsequent head of the country's biggest ballet company. I gather that she is responsible for making ballet as big as it is there, but also has deployed a rather conservative dead hand to largely isolate the country from innovations in the form.

The ballet we saw was called Le Chevalier de Saint-George. It told the story of some mixed race wunderkind from one of those French sugar islands in the Caribbean. As well as raising a regiment to fight for the French Revolution, he also composed music, music used in this performance.

Ballet seems to be a funny old business. It is a narrative form, but done through dance*. It is not like they mime out what is going on, more that they start jumping around the stage to express emotions where, in an opera, say, they would launch into an impassioned aria. The story in this one was maybe a bit slight, but it did provide plenty of opportunities for astonishing athletic feats by the dancers. One great sequence was supposedly some kind of hoe-down at Versailles, and it allowed the company to serve up an almost endless sequence of ever more baroque pieces of ensemble dancing.

One funny thing about all this was the way the male dancers' costumes made them look like they were wearing jackets but were naked from the waist down – porky pig style. I was also rather surprised by the big thumps the dancers made when they landed after a jump. Most surprising, though, was how unfavourably the ballet treated the French Revolution and the execution of Marie Antoinette – the whole things seemed like an uprising of yobbos, with the Queen's execution shocking Saint-George ot his core. This was not how I would have expected the state ballet company in a socialist country to depict such things. It also jarred with the historical details of Saint-George's life – as already noted, he was a keen supporter of the Revolution.

Parque Prehistorico

OK, that's enough about Cuba. My last word is this – if you go to Cuba, make sure you go to the dinky little town of ViƱales, and there go and visit the Parque Prehistorico, behind the baseball ground. Both it and the guy who runs it are amazing. This is not the same as the prehistoric wall, which is out of town.

* In other news, the Pope has been revealed to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

image source

An inuit panda production


mileys girl said...

i love that photo

ian said...

which one?