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SEPTIME WEBRE, 45, artistic director of the Washington Ballet

Friday, September 28, 2007

"For a lot of Latino immigrants in the United States who grow up here, who spend their childhood out of their country, there's a dynamic that exists that leads down to a need to understand who they are. I am both Cuban and not Cuban. I am Mexican and not Mexican. I am American and not American. So it takes some time to sort of negotiate that self-identity."

Cuba is close to Septime Webre's heart. In 1999, while working on a cultural exchange program, he visited Havana for the first time, and it was then, he says, that he "began a process of rediscovering" who he was. The music, movements and passion for ballet are in his Latin blood, he says. As artistic director of the Washington Ballet, Webre gives lessons in English and Spanish and has shown a particular interest in diversifying his dancers. In 2000, he brought dancers from the Washington Ballet to an international festival in Cuba. In Washington, he has reached out to Hispanics through special community events.

Webre, who was born in New Orleans, is the seventh child in a Cuban American family that left the island because of the revolution. Growing up near the U.S.-Mexican border in Texas, Webre learned the Mexican American culture and traditions. Now, with a unique mix of accents, he calls himself Chicano, Cubano and Americano. "I am American, and as an American I can be Hispanic, and I am, " he says.

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