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Cleveland Havana Exchange

By January 5, 2018February 21st, 2018No Comments

CLEVELAND, OH- In the spring of 2018, two ballet companies will join forces in an international collaboration to form the Cleveland Havana Ballet to present the Cuban ballet, Yarini. Starring the dancers of Cleveland’s Verb Ballets led by Dr. Margaret Carlson, and Havana’s ProDanza under the direction Laura Alonso, this cultural exchange is a groundbreaking partnership supported through the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion initiative. This significant collaboration will encompass performances in Cuba by the combined companies in March 2018.  Bringing Verb Ballets to Cuba for the first time is an enormous cultural exchange and will integrate American dancers to the very best of Cuba’s ballet scene.

Until 2014 there was a travel and trade embargo from Cuba that halted the art exchanges for decades. Cuban ballet has been at the pinnacle of international dance for years and Cuba continues to produce some of the ballet world’s best dancers. The daughter of legendary ballet royalty Alicia Alonso, Laura Alonso is herself an award-winning ballet teacher with a 25-year career performing with Ballet Nacional de Cuba. This is the second year of the cultural exchange with Alonso through the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition. She came to Cleveland, Ohio for two months this past spring to train Verb Ballets dancers in the Cuban method likely the first-of-its-kind exchange connecting cultural institutions of a major Midwestern city with a selection of celebrated Cuban artists for an extended project-based residency.

“The collaboration this year among Cuban and Cleveland artists has been nothing short of phenomenal,” said Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “It is exciting to be able to expand the partnership between the nationally-renowned Verb Ballets company and legendary Cuban artist Laura Alonso to catalyze a new work in Havana as part of our Creative Fusion initiative. In a climate of increasing divisiveness, it’s never been more important to show how the universal language of dance can bring people together across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

Presented as The Cleveland Havana Ballet, the two companies will perform the full length classical ballet, Yarini, by international dancer and choreographer, Iván Alonso, the grandson of Alicia Alonso. The combined company premiere of Yarini will run March 9-11, 2018 in the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater in Havana. Yarini is based on an historical hero who reached mythical proportions within popular Cuban culture and imagination. The ballet centers around Alberto Yarini, known as the Prince of Old Havana, Louis Lotot, Yarini’s notorious rival, and the women they loved. The ballet is set in Havana during the Cuban War of Independence against Spain; during Yarini’s rise to power that led to his inevitable tragic death in 1910. The battle highlights passion, power and struggles for freedoms that are the essence of the Cuban spirit.

Verb Ballets, a contemporary ballet company based in Cleveland, Ohio will travel to Havana, Cuba on March 3, 2018 for nearly three weeks to join ProDanza. Verb Ballets’ international tour will commence with a shared repertory program with ProDanza running March 16-18, 2018 highlighting the unique styles of American and Cuban ballet at The National Theatre in Havana, Cuba. “We believe this is the first time in history a Cuban and American ballet company have performed together,” said Dr. Carlson, Producing Artistic Director of Verb Ballets. “To be able to perform on stage with some of the best dancers in the world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our company.”

Join Verb Ballets for the cultural immersion trip of a lifetime March 15-19, 2018. Led by To Cuba Now, the people-to-people exchange program will provide an experience far beyond the typical cars and cigars tours in Cuba. You will have the opportunity to see a Cuba few others have ever seen, with an authentic and personal view of Cuba’s art, music and dance communities, along with a customized program and tour of Cuba’s iconic cultural treasures. The customized five days/four nights immersion travel program provides a unique opportunity to support Verb Ballets and to personally experience the people, arts and culture of Cuba in a way few others could imagine. For more details visit or call To Cuba Now at 440-835-4040.

All dates are subject to change.  Photos or interviews available upon request by contacting  
Jen Garlando, Director of Marketing & PR at  


March 9-11, 2018
The Teatro Miramar
Havana, Cuba

March 16-18, 2018
The Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana
Havana, Cuba

About Verb Ballets  
Verb Ballets, a contemporary ballet company, presents dynamic programming through bold artistry, unique styles and technical excellence that captivates a broad audience. Under the direction of Dr. Margaret Carlson, Producing Artistic Director and Richard Dickinson, MFA, Associate Director, the company will present a season that ignites passion in the energy, beauty and athleticism of dance. Critics have hailed Verb Ballets as, “Dashes preconceptions …with keen dramatic power.” -The Plain Dealer, “(Verb) is dance magnifique.” – The Examiner, “confident and polished, Verb’s dancers shone” – Dance International Magazine. Verb Ballets cultivates dance appreciation and nurtures wellness through movement in community dance classes, school residencies, senior outreach, library programs, master classes and college course partnerships. Verb Ballets has also been named one of Five Great Tiny Troupes in America by Dance Magazine and was one of the 25 dance companies in America to watch. In 2017 Verb Ballets begins a year long celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the company. As one of the oldest dance organizations in Cleveland we are proud to produce high caliber work and continue to connect with communities across a four county reach. Additional information can be found at

Verb Ballets 3445 Warrensville Center Rd. Shaker Heights, OH 44122 • 216-397-3757 •
Facebook  •  Twitter  • Instagram •  YouTube @verbballets

About ProDanza 
Centro de Promoción de la Danza, better known as Pro Danza, is a world-renown center for the study and performance of dance located in Havana, Cuba. Since its founding in 1988, the center has been under the direction of revered ballet dancer and teacher Laura Alonso, the daughter of famous Cuban ballet dancers Alicia and Fernando Alonso. Training is based on the methodology and technique of the Cuban School of Ballet, which began in the 1930s as a distinctive and highly respected approach derived from older European and American methods. Pro Danza consistently produces dancers for major companies around the world. Pro Danza companies perform around the globe but, as a big part of the center’s mission is to foster the love of dance in the Cuban people, performances are staged regularly across the island.

Iván Alonso, Choreographer 
He began his studies in Classical Dance in 1967 at the National School of Art (ENA), where he graduated in 1975 as a teacher dancer. From there he joined the National Ballet of Cuba reaching the soloist level. He was part of the Young Guard of which he is founder. In 1998 he was awarded the main teaching category of Adjunct Assistant of the Higher Institute of Art. He was appointed choreographer by the Evaluation Committee whose president is Alicia Alonso. He currently serves as Ballet Master and Choreographer of the Center for the Promotion of Dance.

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