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Giselle ~ Ballet Nacional de Cuba ~ Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
June 1, 2018 

With the continuation of the Cuban Arts festival Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World – the largest presentation of Cuban Arts in the United States – one of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, performs Giselle through Saturday with additional matinees on Saturday June 2nd and Sunday June 3rd.  I give you this up front so can grab tickets ASAP.

Alicia Alonso takes a bow with principal dancers, Sadaise Arencibia and Dani Hernández, after their performance in Giselle at the Kennedy Center

Alicia Alonso takes a bow with principal dancers, Sadaise Arencibia and Dani Hernández, after their performance in Giselle at the Kennedy Center

After four decades since her last appearance at the Kennedy Center, legendary dancer and choreographer, Alicia Alonso and her acclaimed troupe return to the Kennedy Center.  The nonagenarian, who now serves as both Artistic Director and Choreographer, was on hand to cheer on her dancers, but she too garnered wild applause after the opening night performance when she was led onstage by premier danseurs, Sadaise Arencibia (Giselle) and Dani Hernández (Albrecht, Duke of Silwesia).

Ballet Nacional de Cuba  Giselle Ginett Moncho as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis ~Photo by Teresa Wood`

Anyone who knows a whit about ballet knows of Alonso’s numerous achievements over her 80-year career.  She was the epitome of a prima ballerina during the 20th century working in America with Mikhail Fokine, George Balanchine, Leonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinski, Anthony Tudor, Jerome Robbins and Agnes de Mille as a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.  So, we were decidedly gobsmacked to see her up and about and traveling back to America to celebrate – and choreograph – both Giselle and Don Quixote whose short run ended May 31st.

Ballet Nacional de Cuba Giselle Ballaeina Troupes ~ Photo by Teresa Wood.

The story of Giselle is that of a peasant girl who falls for a handsome Duke, only she doesn’t know he’s a duke (he’s disguised as a farmer).  She discovers his noble station when she is spurned by his family and fiancé.  The folk tale derives from a Slavic belief that girls who have not become brides before they die, return to earth as sylphs to their true loves, haunting them until death.

Ballet Nacional de Cuba_ Giselle_Raúl Abreu as Albrecht, Duke of Silesia and Sadaise Arencibia as Giselle_Photo by Teresa Wood.

Alonso’s version of Giselle is considered the most accomplished one as it more smoothly merges the pastoral dynamic of Act One to the spirit world of Act Two.  Of particular note is Giselle’s emergence from her tomb to woo Albrecht in an ethereal almost otherworldly solo by Arencibia and Hernandez’s response in a pas de deux that matches her statuesque grace with powerful leaps and gorgeous lifts.

Highly recommended.

At The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit

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