Cuban Ballet: Author Discusses Book on History of Cuban Ballet

February 4, 2011 - 4:30 PM


Octavio Roca 
Chair, Arts and Philosophy Department

Miami Dade College


Caridad Martínez
Former Principal, Ballet Naciónal de Cuba
Director, Brooklyn Ballet Conservatory

Faculty Member, Harkness Dance Center

Ana María Hernández
Professor, LaGuardia Community College


Octavio Roca has worked as a music, dance and theater critic for The Washington PostThe Washington Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and the Miami New Times. He is the author of Scotto, More Than A Diva, of American Dance–A ConstantlyEvolving Tradition, and, in collaboration with Luis Palomares, of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 25 Years Gala Celebration, and most recently ofCuban Ballet, with forewords by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Alicia Alonso. His works for the stage include commissioned translations of The Soldier’s TaleOur Friend Fritz,Orpheus and EurydiceThe Coronation of Poppea, and The Unwelcome Rhythm of Your Pulse. A widely respected authority on the arts, Octavio Roca has served on the juries of the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, the International Young Conductors’ Competition in Besançon, the Nijinsky Awards in Monte Carlo and the International Ballet Festival in Havana, his native city. He is currently chairperson of the arts and philosophy faculty of Miami-Dade College.

About the Discussants:

Caridad Martínez graduated from the Escuela Naciónal de Arte in Havana, Cuba. Caridad later became the principal dancer of Ballet Naciónal de Cuba and performed in the most important theaters in Europe, North and South America, as well as in Asia. She also choreographed for the Hispanic Heritage Awards and for the Julian Schnabel film “Before the Night Fall.” Caridad was also the Director of the Cuban Ballet School in Mexico. She has received numerous awards for her dance and theater choreographies, including an award from The Association of Writers and Artists in Cuba for two consecutive years.

Ana María Hernández (Ph.D., New York University) specializes in Caribbean and River Plate studies and teaches Latin American Literature and Culture at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York. Her publications have focused on Julio Cortázar, Horacio Quiroga, Julio Herrera y Reissig, Felisberto Hernández and Antonio Benítez Rojo. She has been part of the reviewing staff of World Literature Today since 1977. She received a Focus Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2003 to explore “The African Roots of Latin Music.” Her recent research has focused on the influence of film techniques on contemporary Latin American fiction.

From Reviewers:

“Dance is all about balance, so there is a certain beauty in the fact that Octavio Roca‘s new book, Cuban Ballet, opens with forewords written by the founder of the Cuban National Ballet, Alicia Alonso,  a supporter of Fidel Castro,and by Mikhail Baryshnikov, the most famous anti-communist Soviet defector in the world. The book is a labor of love.”  David Adams, Hispanic-Poder Magazine

“The product of years of research and a lifetime of commitment to Cuban arts and culture, Roca’s book explores the history of Cuban ballet… The Cuban dance diaspora is [making a major contribution] to culture from the island. These Cubans are retaining their cultural heritage … “they say with every step, ‘No, you will not take Cuba away from me.’” San Francisco Chronicle

“Octavio Roca is a philosopher by training, journalist by accident and writer by birth.Cuban Ballet is a tale well-told by a man who wields words with impeccable authority.” Hirania Luzardo, AOL Latino.

“Ballet critic and author Octavio Roca explores an astonishing cultural phenomenon. On the international scene, in the world of Ballet, eyes are turning to the Cuban-trained dancer. Octavio Roca’s Cuban Ballet unfolds this phenomenon through an intimate and historical perspective. The story is iconic in measure and packed with the stuff of classical legend–zealous determination, courage and hope, sacrifice and survival. In his role as a critic, Mr. Roca has seen the glory performances of an amazing roster of internationally renowned Cuban ballet stars. He understands the depths and complexities of their … commitment to dance and rejoices in their personal, artistic, and cultural triumphs. His text is lyrical and linear; the arguments are rich and provoking. Fifty years of on-going defections by Alonso’s pupils adds up to an amazing legacy, a unique historical quest for personal and artistic freedom. The dramatic elements include the loss of family, friends, and country, along with the cloak and dagger energies of escape, political asylum, institutional shunning and nationalistic memory-wipes by the Cuban regime.” Sean Martinfield, The San Francisco Sentinel.

“A blazing, sizzling book.” From Siempre Mujer.

“This is now the Bible of Cuban ballet.” Show de Maria Elvira, MEGA-TV.