Taken at face value, Alberto Mendez's story of Cuba is funny. As the choreographer tells it, the island is so sexual and strange that it might have been visted by Gulliver on his travels. Its male aborginals whistle through their fingers, stalk, and toss off pirouettes. The females, when alone, just hop. They hop badly, failing to bend the knees as they land. When the sexes get together, the women are carried onto the stage in varied positions whose intent is obviously the same. What Mendez depicts in the first act of the new Cuban ballet at Kennedy Center is a history of mating in his homeland.
Red-robed conquerors invade the scene. They are formal at first in their stiff Spanish court dances, but that is mere facade. The leading pair strips down to flesh-colored tights and leotards to engage in what is the most balletically inventive passage to the act. Incidentally, the conquerors dispose of the aboriginals Black slaves arrive.They confront the conquerors but, instead of battling, the two races mix and mate as the curtain is lowered on the first half of "Night of the Guitar."
After that portentous beginning, the ballet settles down to being a suite of small, unrelated dances to Latin American guitar music. Some sections are casual, such as Mendez's trio for two rivals who knock each other out in a virtuoso battle over Mirta Pla's proud Spanish turns. Other dances, such as Gustavo Herrera's eloquent solo for Maria Elena Llorente, are formal.
Two pieces. Ivan Tenorio's ballet versus pop-dance pas de quatre and his strangulation trio, are silly. The richest and most elegant piece of choreography is Roland Petit's tango. It has light steps as Josefina Mendezz and Pablo More face each other, dance back to front, or separate briefly to Villa Lobos music.
Everyone in the large cast gathers for the finale, in which Alicia Alonso appears. First she sits cross-legged weaving her hands in a Hindu way, and then rises to stroll, like troubador, carrying a guitar.