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Cuban Prima Viengsay Valdés Named Deputy Artistic Director of Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Valdes and Alonso. Photo by Nancy Reyes, courtesy BNC

Alicia Alonso's famed ballet company in Cuba has a new leader: the beloved hometown prima ballerina Viengsay Valdés.

Ballet Nacional of Cuba just named Valdés deputy artistic director, which means she will immediately assume the daily responsibilities of running the company. Alonso, 98, will retain the title of general director, but in practice, Valdés will be the one making all the artistic decisions.


Viengsay Vald\u00e9s holds Alicia Alonso's hands in the dance studio, Valdes from below while Alonso sits in a chair

Photo by Nancy Reyes

Alonso has been the company's sole artistic director since she founded BNC along with her husband Fernando and his brother Alberto in 1948. As she's grown older, ballet lovers have been speculating about whom she might leave the company to. Questions over a possible successor started to feel even more urgent this fall, when Alonso didn't make any appearances at Havana's International Ballet Festival due to poor health.

Valdés, most likely nearing the end of her performing career at age 42, has long been considered a top contender for the position. She is beloved in Cuba—her performances there can take on the quality of rock concerts, with audiences screaming in delight at her superhuman balances and turns.

Another name that had been floated was prodigal son Carlos Acosta. However, last week's news that he would become artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet effectively ruled out that possibility. (We can't help wondering if the timing of these two back-to-back announcements was a coincidence, or if one decision affected another).

Valdés told Prensa Latina earlier today that Alonso has always been an idol for her, and that she hopes to continue to inspire the dancers to "share that common dream of a united and strong company." She also told reporters that she hopes to strengthen the company's relationship with the school, and feels she has a lot to offer the company's dancers in their training and professional development.

She didn't mention anything about the company's repertoire, which many lament is as outdated as some of the cars in the parking lot. For now, we'll just have to wait to see if having a younger decision maker at the helm might bring a fresher perspective.

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