Thursday, September 07, 2006

Culture makes you free!

As you may have read earlier, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC) is currently performing in Europe, led once again by Alicia Alonso, the 85 year old prima ballerina who counts Fidel Castro among her closest and dearest friends.

The reviews in the United Kingdom have been mixed.

Reviewer Ruth Leon at Bloomberg described the performance by the company as being much like Cuba: “looking frayed around the edges”.

“It is sunny and good-natured, while suffering from the domination of a leader who should have gone years ago,” the perceptive Ms Leon concludes.

A totally different take at The Guardian, the left-leaning newspaper in London that rarely has a harsh word to say about Castro.

One of its columnists, Marcel Berlins, who is described as "a lawyer turned journalist", declared the performance “stunningly good” before diving straight into politics with the following gem.

“Not for the first time,” Mr Berlins tells us, “I marvelled at the inspiring fact that from a small, poor island of 11 million people, starved of money and opportunity by the indefensibly cruel behaviour of successive American governments, emerges one of today's great ballet companies …”

Mr Berlins says the success of the BNC was “the result of the vision of two dictators”: Alonso and Castro.

“And when Castro ceases to dictate, the inspiration behind ballet's pre-eminence will be gone,” he laments, as only a lawyer turned journalist could. “How can any successor emulate a man who was thinking of the future of dance in his homeland at the same time as he was polishing his guerrilla's rifle in the Sierra?”

So you see, it’s OK to be a nasty, tin pot dictator who rules with absolute and deadly power for 47 long years … provided you have a thing about ballet.



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