It's a combination of summer camp and the grandest of ballet, as for the seventh time since 1960 the dance world gathers in the Cuban capital for the International Ballet Festival of Havana. There is dancing in seven theaters, including four opera houses, with companies such as the Bolshoe Ballet and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC); there also are invited dancers and critics from 25 countries.
Alicia Alonso, director and prima ballerina assoluta of the BNC, is featured almost every night of the festival, which began Oct. 28.The only ballerina to have danced "Giselle" over a period of five decades, she returned this week to the role she had not danced here in two years, partnered for the first time by the Bolshoi's Vladimir Vasiliev.
In the colonial splendor of the Teatro Garcia Lorca there was the kind of beauty in this performance that must have been present when the likes of Pavlova and Elssler danced on the same stage. Vasiliev was more dashing than touching in his role, but his Soviet elan was subdued generously in favor of a new partnership.
The level of support and enthusiasm for ballet given here by both public and state is also special. Every facet of the dance, from earliest schooling to salaries of all dancers, is government-supported. The top price for the gala evenings these three weeks is about $3.50. Even with all that in mind, Havana is a city not much bigger than Washington, and it is not every place that can fill up three or four theaters simultaneously for ballet.
The audiences are different from American adiences in several respects. The roars of approval rival any bullfight. But when the audience doens't like something, they simply don't clap. Many numbers that receive de regueur applause in the States ended in silence last week, including two of the several world premieris and the pas de dix in "Giselle: Act I." And the exquisite Amparo Brito's variation as the second Wiliin Act II was given as ovation second only to Alosno's. Brito is the prototype of the romantic ballerina.
American Yoko Ichino had Havana at her raving at the first gala evening dancing the "Le Corsaire pas de deux" with Cuba's Fernando Jhones. The couple also danced the "Black Swan pas de deux" from Swan Lake," but there was strong competition from the Odette of Aida Villoch, from the Ballet de Camaguey. Hers was a less polished but more daring performance, with triple and quadruple turns a la seconde tossed off with nasty ease. Adam Luders scored a popular success partnering Cuba's prima ballerina Lopia Araujo in the pas de deux from "Flower Festival at Gensano." Araujo lacks the jump and clean footwork for the Bournonvillel style -- her years with Roland Petit having left stylistic tracks. But Luders showed charm and spunk seldom seen in his New York City Ballet performances.
With the Ballet Nacional de Cuba at the Garcia Lorca and the Bolshoi ballet at the vast Teatro Nacional, the Teatro Mell ballet at the vast Teatro Nacional, the Teatro Mella has been reserved for mixed programs. Camaguey's ballet was an unexpected jewel, polished by its director Fernando Alonso's, and headed for an apparent bright furute.
Balletomanes are the same in this tropical ballet capital as everywhere else, and a favorite morning pastime has been the exchange of American Ballet Theater, Cuban ballet and not with their own company.
Other Americans scheduled to dance here include Eleanor D'Antuono. Clark Tippett and Anne Marie d'Angelo will be seen in reconstructions of Pavlova's choreographies. The festival continues through Nov. 16.