Ballet fans in Saratoga Springs have a lot to look forward to in the next few months. For one, the Cuban National Ballet is making its debut appearance at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on June 6-8 (SPAC’s just one of only four locations that the company’s visiting in the US). Also, author, critic and ballet expert Octavio Roca—who recently penned a feature on the history of Alicia Alonso’s masterpiece, Giselle, in saratoga living magazine— will also be appearing for the first time in Saratoga as part of three upcoming events.
“We totally hit it off,” says Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of SPAC, of Roca, whom she first met in Miami Beach in the late ’90s. “I already knew about him as a celebrated dance critic. But he’s got an incredible wit, incredible intellect. A real passion about dance and the arts in general.” Roca’s a force to be reckoned with in the world of ballet; born and raised in Havana to a ballet dancer, he’s had dancing in his veins for his entire life. He’s now authored several books on the subject, including Cuban Ballet, which explores the history of the premier ballet company by centering on the legendary dancer, Alicia Alonso, and is a music and dance critic for The Washington Post, The Washington Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Roca’s specialty, ballerina Alicia Alonso, will be the common thread between all three of the events. The first will be a reception, welcoming Roca to town on Tuesday, May 22, at 6:30pm at the National Museum of Dance, and will also feature a photo exhibition entitled “Alicia Alonso’s Giselle.” On May 23, there’ll be a coffee chat and press conference featuring Roca at Anne’s Washington Inn at 11am. That same evening will be the premier event, a discussion and Q&A entitled “Cuba’s Alicia-Alonso’s Giselle” led by Roca at 7pm at Skidmore College’s Dance Theater. (Alonso trained and danced in New York City’s American Ballet Theater during the ’30s and ’40s before returning to Havana in 1948 to found her own company. She was able to support the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company with almost no financial aid from the government. Over the years, the ballet company grew into its own and officially became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1955.)
The best part? All these events are free. However, “free” doesn’t necessarily mean space will be available (usually the opposite). So SPAC recommends that if you want to get in on these thoughtful discussions about the artistic process in Cuba and its National Ballet then it’s best to make reservations now (visit spac.org for more details). It’s no Miami Beach, but for a couple of weeks, Saratoga Springs might just be the biggest Little Havana in the world.