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Royal Ballet Heads to Havana

It's not the usual ballet audience, although luminaries such as Cuba's legendary ballerina Alicia Alonso was among the honored guests, but with tickets going for only 20 Cuban pesos, about 91 cents U.S., the fans attending the Royal Ballet performance in Havana's Garcia Lorca theater were a diverse social mix.

And for those who didn't manage to snag one of these bargain tickets - an outdoor screen had been set up just down the street from the theater, in front of a replica of the U.S. Capitol building, the steps leading up to this tourist attraction would fill with ballet fans once the show started.

The five performances, a first for England's Royal Ballet in Havana are not a money-making deal. Productions like this are expensive to mount.

"Ballpark figure, you're talking a million pounds," said Kevin O'Hare. "You know if you include everything, I mean some things are happening in kind but really you're talking a million pounds."

O'Hare said 13 sponsors for these performances came through because of the prestige of Cuba's National Ballet and Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, dancing for the past 11 years with the Royal Ballet.

"Well, I would say that Carlos Acosta is one of the most important dancers in the world today. I think he's had a huge impact around the world," said Monica Mason, the director of the Royal Ballet. "I think his influence on young male dancers is enormous. He talked to us about Cuba. What dance is to Cuba and we've been trying for years to find a way to be able to make this visit possible."

Acosta said that Cuba would never been able to afford the Royal Ballet.

"So the Royal Ballet decided to give this present and this gift to the Cuban people," Acosta said.

Despite the heat inside the theater, fans wildly applauded the Royal Ballet but it was those watching on the outdoor screen who got the biggest surprise when Carlos Acosta and his co-dancers came out to take their bows and shake hands.

"It really amazed me because, you know the thing is they appreciate ballet and art so much here that you forget that it's a ballet event at all," Acosta said. "It looks like the final in the world cup in soccer. I mean and everybody is just incredible and everybody from the Royal Ballet also says the same. They really completely amazed that they had such a reception."

Three acts from 8:30 p.m. until midnight - but it never occurred to anyone to slip out, from the minimalist "Chromo" to "A Month in the Country," people just applauded widely as the dancers' leaps and whirls brought Cuba and England a bit closer together.