- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2000

The Washington Ballet plans to spend a week in Cuba in October and appear in the Ballet Nacional de Cuba's 17th International Dance Festival.
"We are going to Cuba to dance, but we will do more than dance," says ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre.
The ballet company is taking along more than 120 American dancers, choreographers, ballet students and teachers, theater directors and arts patrons for the visit, from Oct. 23 to 29.
Mr. Webre says the hope is to create "long-term relationships between artists in our two cultures."
The United States has a trade embargo against Cuban leader Fidel Castro's government that bars Americans from visiting the island, but the Clinton administration has relaxed it for cultural exchanges.
The Milwaukee Symphony visited Cuba in 1999, as did the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
Mr. Webre, who is entering his second season with the Washington Ballet, is the impetus for the trip. His mother is Cuban and his father French-American. The family left Cuba before Mr. Webre was born, and he grew up in Texas, but "we heard many family stories of life in Cuba," he says.
Mr. Webre wrote in the ballet company's winter newsletter that he had visited Havana in October and found the "dance training, energy and commitment are very high."
A meeting between Mr. Webre and Alicia Alonso, the country's revered prima ballerina, resulted in what has been dubbed "Dialogues in Dance: Cuba 2000."
The highlight of the Washington Ballet's visit to Havana will be three company performances at the dance festival. They will include pieces from "The Jazz/Blues Project," scheduled to premiere this fall at the Kennedy Center. Other planned activities are:
Master classes and other outreach by the dance company.
A three-day choreographic "encounter" for five or six noted American choreographers and their Cuban counterparts.
Visits by students and faculty of the Washington School of Ballet to Cuban ballet schools.
Introductions to Cuban music, literature, visual arts, Afro-Cuban religion and architecture and other aspects of the country's culture by Cuba's Ministry of Culture for American patrons accompanying the ballet.
A "Dance on Camera" film festival produced by the Washington Ballet and New York-based American Dance Films Inc.
In preparation for the trip, the Washington Ballet will bring Cuban master teacher Loipa Araujo to Washington to teach students at its school. During her two-week stay, Miss Araujo also will lead master classes for members of the local dance community and seminars on Cuban dance training for area dance teachers.
After the ballet company returns to the United States, it plans to commission a new work by a Cuban choreographer to premiere at the Kennedy Center during the 2001-02 season.
Mr. Webre also would create a ballet for Ballet de Camaguey, Cuba's second-largest dance company. Plans also call for establishing a 300-title video library in Havana.

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