MIAMI (CBS4) - Half a dozen Cuban dance defectors are preparing for an upcoming performance at the Jackie Gleason Theater on Miami Beach.
But the butterflies they'll feel when they take the stage are nothing compared to the tension they faced when they planned their group defection from Cuba last month.
"I danced with the Cuban National Ballet for 2 years and I enjoyed it, but I need to grow as an artist so I decided to defect," said 20-year-old Arianne Martin Cabrales. "I believe all ballet dancers want to grow and prosper. That is why I made the hard decision to leave my county and come to the United States."
In all, seven members of the Cuban National Ballet defected while on tour in Mexico in mid-March. Six of the dancers, four men and two women, are now in Miami training with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, where many Cuban defectors have trained over the years before joining other dance companies around the world. Dance instruction is subsidized by the Cuban government, and the Cuban National Ballet is one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world.
"It's their technique," said Eriberto Jimenez of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. "It's the passion the Cuban dancers have and the way they were taught in their country that makes them great. It's an excellent school and the produce a good amount of dancers."
The dancers say that while they were privileged to be members of the Cuban National Ballet, they wanted to grow as dancers both artistically and financially, something they could not achieve if they stayed in their country.
"I left Cuba because I felt I got as high as I could go with the Cuban National Ballet," said defector Randy Crespo. "I wanted to dance with other dance companies. It was the best way for me to grow as a dancer. I also wanted to grow economically."
The dancers say the spent weeks planning their defection and admit they were scared crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S., but they say the hardest part of their defection is leaving behind family in Cuba.
"I left my mother, my father and my brother," said Martin Cabrales. "They understand this is the best move for my career."
For now the dancers are working to prepare for their upcoming performances. They have their sights set on careers that may take them to many states in the U.S. and around the world, but they're hoping to someday perform for their family members still on the island. For more information on the dancers' upcoming performances May 25-26 at the Filmore Theater on Miami Beach, go to www.cubanclassicalballet.org.
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