Five dancers from Ballet Nacional de Cuba have defected in Canada after the company performed there last month. Among them is Elier Bourzac, 26, a premier dancer who impressed Australian audiences last year as Basilio in Don Quixote. The virtuoso dancer told The Montreal Gazette:
“My reason for staying is artistic. I went as far as I wanted to go in classical ballet – in Cuba, it’s exclusively classical dance – and I’d like to continue to perform ballet, but now I’d like to explore contemporary dance, too, and work with international choreographers. As far as Canada goes, I like Canada’s way of life better than that of other countries where I’ve toured.”
Bourzac was speaking from Toronto where he was taking class in that city with the National Ballet of Canada along with four others who defected, his wife, Patricia Gonzalez, 24, Jorge Villazon, 32 and Hugo Rodriguez, 20, all BNC corps de ballet members. A fifth Cuban defector, first soloist, Yadil Suarez, 22, is still in Montreal. They all want to join Canadian ballet companies.
They’re hardly the first to defect from the Cuban company but thinking of defection, ballet and Canada, my mind goes back to 1974. That year, Baryshnikov, on tour with the Bolshoi Ballet, defected in Toronto just after performing the Don Quixote pas de deux.