Heartbreak, hope in 'Dance Cuba'
DANCE CUBA: DREAMS OF FLIGHT (Unrated)***½
BY OCTAVIO ROCA
Don't miss this one. Cynthia Newport's Dance Cuba: Dreams of Flight is a melancholy documentary on a joyful subject, and a breathtakingly beautiful film by any standard.
It is a kaleidoscope of Cuban dance, revealing facets of parallel
lives from inside Cuba as well as from exile, the borders of each colorful
tale touching on the others as
emotions intersect briefly at a dance festival in Havana. There is a lot of heartbreak here. There is also a lot of hope.
The cast of real characters could not be more colorful. There is Carlos Acosta, charismatic star of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba as well as an acclaimed company member of the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden and the American Ballet Theater. Newport follows the young dancer as he explores his African roots with original choreography that follows the footsteps of Alberto Alonso in bringing together exquisite classical syntax with the sensual throbbing of Afro-Cuban dance.
There is also Septime Webre, the dynamic Cuban-American director of the Washington Ballet, rehearsing his American company for a historic Cuban debut. In Havana, his Washingtonians break ground by dancing a homoerotic ballet by Trey McIntyre. In one of many touching moments, gay Cuban balletomanes shyly approach McIntyre and Webre to tell them, ever so subtly, what a breakthrough their dance was in Cuba's homophobic atmosphere.
Then there are the founders of the Cuban ballet. And, though the moving on-camera interviews with Alicia and Fernando Alonso are too brief, a sense of history with all its contradictions emerges with devastating force.
The great Lorna Feijóo is seen triumphing in Swan Lake in Havana, then shortly afterward in Boston, following her defection. Webre and his siblings go looking for their ancestral Cuban home only to find it has burned down. Images of a ravaged Cuban capital compete with those of dancing. If there is a flaw here it is that viewers will be left wanting to see more of the dancers and their dance. There is real life in this picture.
The structure of Dreams of Flight boasts at best a dreamlike logic, and the full impact of Newport's dance mosaic emerges only in retrospect. It is an unforgettable vision.
Cast: Carlos Acosta, Septime Webre, Alicia Alonso, Fernando Alonso, Lorna Feijóo, Trey McIntyre, Angela Grau, Miguel Cabrera, artists of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and the Washington Ballet.
Director-Producer: Cynthia Newport.
In English and Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 105 minutes.
Playing at 7:30 tonight and 9:45 p.m. Thursday at Regal South Beach.