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I wish to thank you for this illuminating program. I am a volunteer at the Huntington Valley
Library and would love to show this film to our audiences with a discussion to follow. Since
I live in Philadelphia I wonder if the two dancers are still alive and do they do public speaking.
We do not have a large budget but our focus is on community education as we are a public library.
The program was so moving and still lingers in my memory. In a sense it truly brought
home the political as well as the personal in such a beautiful and thoughtful way. I
was truly knocked out. The sisters are great ladies and real artists. THANK YOU.
The documentary opened up the flood-gates to my heart and soul ... for many reasons ...
I too was separated from my (yet to be born) daughter whilst living under the fascist regime of South Africa (circa: 1984) and saw her for the first time on her 10th birthday - when she had already begun her life-career of ... dance ... ballet (Classic, Tap, Spanish, Modern and now Pilates)
She's due to go off to Taiwan for a 4 month dance scholarship/workshop.
For creative people (sensitive, intuitive and the like) to be forcibly torn apart is very traumatic - often effecting those concerned for many years down the road. The pain and anguish is beyond the realm of general understanding - especially as most people have no concept of what it means to be separated because of social, religious or political differences - circumstances beyond our control.
I thnk PBS for showcasing such poignnat episodes of those who live exemplary lives of heartache and pain and are able to overcome those obstacles - proving the strength and endurance of the human spirit ...
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, conducted Alicia and Igor Youskevitch at ABT in the 1940s. He even conducted them in the premiere of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. When Castro came to power, Alicia asked him to come to Cuba to help her start the Ballet de Cuba. "Between me and you, we can conquer the world," she used to say. I still have a Steuben glass ashtray that she gave my father as a gift during that time.
My mother used to tell a story that when Fernando was unfaithful to Alicia, she got so mad one night on tour, she kicked my father out of bed, shared a bed with my mother, and my father had to go sleep with Fernando. I have wonderful pictures of a young Alicia and of the Ballet de Cuba in its first years.
I grew up in Cuba in early childhood, surrounded by the indescribable magic and wealth of the Cuban artistic elite. This film brought back so many memories: El Teatro, the school. And seeing Alicia again.
She has a magnificent house in Miramar, by the way.
When I was there, my family lived in an apartment in El Vedado, Vista del Mar. It had marble floors. There was a swimming club, a special restaurant called El Club. I grew up watching Alicia dance and watching rehearsals of the Ballet de Cuba. Once I was dancing in the aisles of the theatre and at the end of a corp de ballet movement of Copellia, one of the dancers picked me up, and I waved my arms, much to the delight of the company. A more magical childhood, no one ever had. But I was 4 - 7 years old.
There was a darker side...
My parents saw Kennedy's boats pointed at us through binoculars during the Cuban Missle Crisis. And when John Kennedy was killed, my parents were in rehearsal. The news came, and everyone shrugged. OK, one down. Who are they going to send after Fidel next, was the prevailing feeling. And rehearsal went on without missing a beat.
There were block monitors, people who surveyed opinions whenever Fidel came out with something. My father went to the USSR to conduct the Bolshoi, but we didn't go with him. I still have a child's tutu that the costume department of the Bolshoi made for me. He brought the family back to New York in 1965 or 1966. I'm not sure. I think he realized that Fidel was a dictator, and he couldn't be in Cuba any longer.
Forty years later, I know he made the right decision. The deal with the devil that Alicia made to do this ballet company, well, I just wonder how you do something like that. I guess for a dream as beautiful as the wealth enjoyed by the Cuban artistic elite, and the dream of having your philosophy of dance live on forever, she made her decision.
I could not imagine going into the moral darkness of playing politics with a dictator to achieve anything. But I'm just a quiet citizen of the beautiful United States of America, thankfully so.
John White (Vanya)
As one of the subjects of Mirror Dance, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Frances McElroy and Maria Rodriguez, producers of the documentary, and to Independent Lens for showing a poignant story that is much more profound than even the film could possibly imply.
My wife, Margarita de Saa, and I spent many years agonizing over the estrangement she was forced to experience. For me it was a surreal experience returning to Cuba after 40 years. We didn't know what to expect. And we prepared ourselves by not having unrealistic expectations.
As I quoted Margarita's sentiment in the film, "she just felt like an actress who was prepared to play her part in a movie." Of course, this was a sort of protection mechanism that she used to guard herself from possible bad feelings and disappointments that never materialized. In fact, in Cuba we were treated like celebrities returning "home." It was very touching and heartfelt, not at all phoney or put on for the cameras. In fact we all insisted that the camera crew film everything just as it was, without any setup. It was obvious that many former revolutionaries who before had made Margarita's life so difficult, have "seen the light" and were gracious and made us feel warmly welcome. This included Fernando Alonso, our former Director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, who invited us to his home. Margarita and I owe him a great deal and hold him in the highest regard.
Unfortunately, what could not be shown were more of the eighty hours of film that had to be edited out due to programming constraints. The producers recorded many fascinating interviews and scenes both in Cuba and in the U.S. that could not be used, leaving much invaluable footage that could easily comprise another documentary or expand the existing one. Its only a question of $$$, as is always the case.
Margarita and I have been greatly rewarded by this experience. We have regained lost friendships and family members in Cuba who we knew. And we have been able to meet new family members - nieces, nephews and in-laws - for the first time. What a thrill it was for us all. We can't wait for our next visit, hopefully under better political circumstances.
THANK YOU !!!
MIRROR DANCE struck home with me, an armenian whose ancestors were forced to live in the diaspora after the turkish genocide of 1918, the first true holocaust of the 20th century. some members seemed to disappear from the surface of the earth -- largely due to a lack of communication, residence behind the iron curtain, the lack of technology & recordkeeping as well as the great distances they traveled from each another as they fled for their lives. as a result, i was denied their presence, love and influence. tragically, there is no way to recover this loss. at least the de saa sisters of MIRROR DANCE were able to hold on to the few threads of their past over the years and weave a little more of their familial fabric as a result of your beautiful documentary.
I was excited and deeply moved by this sensitive documentary. It was a perfect subject-- a unique true story that involved the dynamics of family, art, and politics. The paradox of the luxurious ballet facilities for the sister in Cuba contrasted with the struggling enterprise in Pennsylvania was an unexpected irony. I was moved to tears by the end of their journey. It was a lovely film. This is the kind of entertainment I welcome from PBS and what a joy to have no invasive and irritating commercials!
Congratulations on a marvelous program.
My heart aches for the sisters--torn apart for 40 years, and now only able to communicate for the next years through letters and email. I pray for them that they continue to rediscover all that there is between them.
Neither understood why the other did what she did. I hope they come to know why each took the road they did, why they took it, and repair all the bridges of time that has eroded their relationship over the years.
I will watch this again.
I loved and really enjoyed the documentary. As a ballet lover and student, I was expecting to catch a glimpse of BNC students at work and I did. I was also hoping to see their facilities and scenes of Cuba and I also did. My expectations were fulfilled. Nevertheless, as I watched the documentary I felt as if some of the things that were shown in it were portrayed as better than they are in real life. Where are the torn tights and torn ballet slippers that abound in ballet studios? It seemed to me as if all students had all their equipment in perfect shape. Is this really so? Are the BNC studios normally as clean and perfect as they were in the film? I got the feeling that these things were all fixed for the film, that we got a false image of BCN. Does anyone else share this feeling?
Its really heartbreaking to see two sisters that have been separated for 40 years because of political reasons. Its also heartbreaking to know that most of the dancers of this company would leave their country and company (their second house and family)in a heartbeat for a chance of a better salary and a better quality of life.
And all because of the Cuban government.
A moving tribute to art, and the heart and their combination in inspiring us to become more even than we hoped to be. In so many ways your film depicted what is the essence of humanity. So sad that the pettyness of a fascist regime, tightening the imbargo has made this expression of our commonality more difficult. Memories of a wonderful month in Cuba came flooding back with your scenes and the warmth, vivacity and elegance of the Cuban people.
Again Bravo and Thank you all.
The story of Margarita and Ramona is the story of all of us who have lived through a diaspora because of communism. The program was well done and definitely touched a chord. Hopefully there will be a better future for all of those hardworking artists of the BNC. Alicia Alonso has been blind (pun intended) for many decades.
I enjoyed Carlos Acostas's performances when he danced with the Houston Ballet.
Sicklerville, New Jersey
My name is Kristi and I am a former ballet student of Mr. and Mrs. White. I commuted daily from NJ for several years for the opportunity of having them as instructors. Their studio in Narberth was like a home to me, where I spent several hours a week as a teenager and young adult under their instruction. I am 36 now, and have two small children, and although I regretfully didn't follow through with ballet as a career, it's memories hold a special place forever in my heart. Watching Mirror Dance with my family lastnight was quite emotional for myself. I didn't know the detailed history of Mrs. White that the documentary so exquisitely portrayed. The film was done in such a beautiful way...the pictures, the music, the interviews...were all so touching. Knowing Mrs. White for so many years and not knowing her personal story made me feel so incredibly proud of her for the courageous journey she ventured on. I hope that the whole experience filled her mind, spirit and soul with peace. Thank you Independant Lens for sharing her personal story with the public. Yes, Mrs. White gave up alot in her life, but she sure made a difference in the lives of so many here in America. Mr. and Mrs. White have devoted their lives here in the states to inspiring dancers young and old to fulfill their dreams. I am so happy that the process of making this documentary fulfilled a long life dream for Mrs. White. I am priveledged to have studied the art of ballet from two people with such a love and passion for it. My sincere compliments to Independant Lens for airing such an interesting and personal story. I truly enjoyed every minute of it. Great Job!
Harbor Springs, MI
Your Independent Lens: "Mirror Dance" tonight was exquisite!!!!
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!
i am a documentary filmmaker myself, and therefore know what such a project entails.
i thought the film was very tender, yet powerful, and so beautifully shot. the film was put together perfectly, and the music is stunning (loved the solitary instruments leading us along).
all in all, for me it was one of the best docs i've seen so far on Independent Lens - thank you!
I write this and glance at a tourism poster of the B N de C con Alicia Alonso that has been hanging on my wall for over twenty years. And after watching your film it brings a solemn sense of loss because it reminds me of the recent death of Fernando Bujones - another Cuban dancer that was forced to leave his country. In 1990 I too returned. But the reunions were filled with caution, not love. In other words, the mirror does not always reflect what you so naively expect. A mirror doesn't always erase the duality of exile.
I am extremely happy for Margarita and Ramona. I hope they are thankful to the Lord, that HE allowed them to see each other after 40 years and hopefully get their relationship back on track. I am not sure if this will "heal" the split between our families in America and those left behind in Cuba, but it is a start.
My family, like Margarita's, also gave up everything to come to the U.S. and be free of the political oppression in Cuba and made numerous sacrifices. My father left Cuba on his own in 1970 so that he could later on get my sister, my mother and I out, but Fidel had other plans and we were separated from my father for 10 years.
Things like homes, etc. are nothing, the truly important things are the people one leaves behind and the obligations and responsibilities one always has toward them, to make sure they are living as comfortable as possible to the extent we can help. It is important to me to be in touch with them so that they always know they are important in our lives, that they are loved even if we are far apart in space and sometimes in ideologies.
Margarita did not see her sister for 40 years. I left in 1979 and have visited in 1998, 1999 and 2002, due to regulations currently in place, I have no idea when I can see my family again, but every day I think of them and pray for their safety and well-being.
Thank you for this story and the opportunity to express my thoughts here.
Just to clarify a few things reguarding The Ballet Nacional de Cuba: First of all most of the major stars in the company have been going abroad because there is not enough artistic or monetary compensation for all their hard work (and that includes corps de ballet and other member of the company) the lastest was Rolando Sarabia, whose younger brother had already left the company over a year ago. In addition there are a plethora of cuban dancers that are not dancing regularly for the BNC, including Carlos Acosta (ABT & Royas Ballet), Jose Manuel Carreno (ABT), Lorna Feijoo & Nelson Madrigal (Boston), Lorena Feijoo & Joan Boada (San Francisco Ballet) and other in major companies in the world. Yes Castro gave $200,000 to boost up the company, but if anyone hass seen the BNC on tour you can notice the detirrioration of their sets, costumes and even the ballet slipers. Where is all the touring money going to? Alicia Alonso ofcourse, like a true socialist! I know many of the member of the BNC and they have to eat little or cook in their rooms in order to save money, so they can take back things they could not get or afford in Cuban. Thats the reality of a goverment and a person that exploits their citizens.Their salary is less than $20/moth and prices at the dollars stores in Cuba are twice the prices in the state! Thats communism for you!Hypocrites!