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Last dance for Cuba

As the Ballet Nacional de Cuba comes to London, British audiences will have perhaps a final chance to behold one of the country's great cultural institutions—stuck in a timewarp, but glorious nevertheless

By Ruaridh Nicoll   August 2005

Once in a while comes a moment of true understanding. Last October, Alihaydée Carreño danced without music on stage in Havana, and the crowd rose around me. That night, I began to understand the wonder of ballet. That night, I also felt my understanding of Cuba lurch forwards.

It was the third night of the 19th international festival of ballet. An hour or so before, an immaculately turned-out crush had formed in the narrow throat of the Gran Teatro de La Habana. The men were elegant and aloof; the women had clothed themselves with an expert needlework born of years…

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