Starting Wednesday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Cuban dance will be less about conga drums and hip isolations and more about soaring grand jetés and arabesques. For four nights, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba performs "La Magia de la Danza (The Magic of Dance)," which is a group of showpieces from the company's repertoire of classical work, at BAM as part of the Sí Cuba Festival.
"There is a strict adherence to a certain kind of classicism that the Cubans have," said Pia Catton, an arts reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Catton saw the troupe perform in Havana last year. "They are exceptionally classical and adhere to a specific technique that's very purely traditional."
Alicia Alonso, the choreographer of Ballet Nacional de Cuba, has led the company since she founded it in 1948 with an eye towards classical Russian technique. "La Magia de la Danza" is a greatest hits-style show that features scenes from "Gisele," "Sleeping Beauty," "Don Quixote" and others.
"It's a smorgasbord of the best classical narrative ballet," said Catton. "It's like the box of chocolate with only the pieces that you want."
Columbia University dance professor and historian Lynn Garafola said she looked forward to seeing the Ballet Nacional de Cuba's male dancers perform, who go through extensive training from a young age.
"They treat the ballerinas, very, very well," said Garafola with a laugh. "They don't look like arrogant guys. They have an easy relationship with the audience, but they also treat their partners with great gallantry."
She said that the Brooklyn Ballet Nacional de Cuba performances would likely draw a crowd.
"I think there is an excitement about what's happening there [in Cuba] because of course New York is a Latin City. Not so much a Cuban city, but definitely a Latin city," Garafola said.
This year, the Sí Cuba festival, which runs through June at various venues up and down the East Coast, has allowed more Cuban artists and groups, including Danza Contemporánea de Cuba and DanzAbierta, to come to the U.S. to play for the first time. Sí Cuba kicked off in March.