Cuban School of Ballet starts affiliation with Hamilton’s Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble

PASTOR VALLE-GARAY / HAMILTON
Cuba is about to export to Canada one of its most precious cultural patrimonies and Hamilton is delighted to have it. In fact, Hamilton is bursting with pride after accomplishing a unique coup in the world of ballet.
The city’s Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble (CBYE) has announced the formation of the first Cuban School of Ballet in Hamilton, an affiliation of the National Ballet of Cuba.
From September 2009 to June 2010 masters from the Cuban National Ballet, considered one of the five most professional and prestigious ensembles in the world, will offer intense training to young dancers from Hamilton and surrounding areas who demonstrate outstanding talent and seek to advance their skills.

A selected number of CBYE students have been invited to join the Cuban School of Ballet in Hamilton. These students will be given first opportunity to make their decision of accepting or declining the invitation prior to the CBYE opening the invitation to the public. Students who become part of the Cuban School of Ballet will participate in two annual professional productions of the classic ballets The Nutcracker and Hansel and Gretel.   

According to Ms. Belma Gurdil-Diamante, CEO of the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble, the “extraordinary partnership” came to fruition after two years of intense negotiations, a great deal of goodwill and the passionate commitment of Cuba’s Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso, founder and artistic director of the National Ballet of Cuba.

“Alicia was so overwhelmed with the warm, enthusiastic reception the National Ballet of Cuba received every time they performed in Hamilton Place in the last two years and was  so impressed by the discipline and the talent of our own local dancers that she agreed wholeheartedly to open a Hamilton affiliate of the Cuban School of Ballet in our city. This is a dream come true, a truly exciting artistic partnership and a great contribution to the further cultural development of Hamilton” indicated Ms. Gurdil-Diamante.

Undoubtedly this is a win-win situation. The performances by the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) have simply exploded in the world’s most demanding stages. So much so that just as the BNC expands to Hamilton, many established international dancers and
great ballet companies regularly travel to Havana to study, to learn and to adapt to the BNC’s sensuous, marvellous techniques.

Since its foundation 60 years ago, Madame Alonso’s goal of popularizing ballet has become a tremendously successful story. In today’s Cuba ballet is as popular as baseball, the national pastime. By 2002, under the direction of Ramona de Sáa, the Cuban National Ballet School (Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet) in Havana with an enrolment of 4,350 students became the largest ballet school in the world and the most prestigious ballet school in Cuba. When expansion of the school started in 2002 out of 52,000 students interested to join the school, 4,050 were selected. Meanwhile thousands of promising would-be dancers attend numerous schools of ballet across the island.

PARTNERSHIP STARTS IN HAMILTON

When the National Ballet of Cuba first performed in Hamilton Place a scant two years ago, the city experienced a wonderful transformation, similar to the Cuban phenomenon. Thousands of parents and volunteers enthusiastically supported the daunting task undertaken by Ms. Gurdil-Diamante, and the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble to bring the Cuban dancers to Canada.

On December 17, 2007, and for the first time in 37 years, the Hamilton theatre would host the National Ballet of Cuba. Its version of The Nutcracker instantly became a thrilling, unforgettable performance. Madame Alonso, 85 years young, provided the evening’s highlight as the Cuban diva took curtain calls to thunderous ovations.
 
The experience sealed a love affair between Havana and Hamilton. People who had never attended the classic dance fell in love with it and became its most enthusiastic supporters. Over the next two years the National Ballet of Cuba would return to Hamilton Place to perform Hansel and Gretel, Giselle, the company’s brilliant signature ballet and, of course, the popular Christmas classic The Nutcracker in which the National Ballet of Cuba took the stage in conjunction with selected dancers from the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble. Playing to full houses at the Hamilton venue the public rewarded the dancers with standing ovations and unprecedented applause. A new wave of youngsters from all over the Province of Ontario applied to join the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble.
 
For Hamilton the Cuban incursion became an economic and cultural fairy tale as well. Ballet lovers from across Canada and the United States flocked to the city to witness the astonishing performances by the National Ballet of Cuba and the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble. Last month Hamilton Tourism 2009 recognized these achievements. It awarded Ms. Gurdil-Diamante its 2009 Arts and Entertainment Ambassador Award and voted The Nutcracker the Festival of the Year 2009 Award.

The newly-formed Havana-Hamilton partnership would result in another coveted coup: company students have been automatically invited to join the trip to Cuba in January 3-10, 2010, and to participate in the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble production of The Nutcracker in Havana. As mentioned earlier, the affiliation is definitely a win-win situation. Hamilton is now the envy of the ballet world.  

Students wishing to join the CBYE-Cuban School of Ballet in Hamilton will be required to audition before joining the program to ensure that each candidate meets the demanding standards required by the rigorous training. Once accepted into the program students will be evaluated in their progress twice a year.
   
Students interested in auditioning for the Cuban School of Ballet or obtaining additional information should contact the CBYE office at (905) 512-1453 or by e-mail at info@cbye.ca

*Senior Scholar, York University
   

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