Cuban Ballet in Exile

Some of the world's best dancers hang out at Costco, then perform Swan Lake.

In Act Two, Taras stuns. He spins like an infinite top. His head whips crisply, his spine ramrod-straight with arms posed in a circular shape. He sees Princess Odette, played by Adiarys Almeida, from across the stage. Their eyes lock in telenovela lust. His brows crinkle as he bows, hand sweeping to his heart. He flits forward with sprightly kicks. Later he grasps her delicate waist and raises her to the sky in a lift that appears effortless.

"Bravo!" the audience explodes.

Between acts, Taras stretches his toes and hits the bathroom. He plays air guitar when the music starts, and then returns to the stage. Soon he is doing a series of quick grand jetés, leaping gracefully as his mother watches adoringly and whispers "" when he completes the feat.

Heading offstage past Magaly, who congratulates him with "¡Bien, bonito!" he collapses onto a wooden box and grabs a bottle of water. She kisses his sweaty left cheek. He inverts his feet so Magaly and Miguel Angel can massage his soles. Then he rubs his shoes with resin and heads out for the finale.

The prince, now donning a purple velvet shirt with silver sequins, and Odette choose to die together. They emerge, clutching hands, on an elevated platform and are united in death by love. The curtain drops minutes before 11.

People swarm the stage to congratulate Taras. He totes a single red rose that Almeida plucked from her bouquet. Magaly, who had quickly changed between acts into a silky aquamarine top, places a towheaded girl in Taras's arms for a picture.

Taras signs a ballet shoe for a 13-year-old: Para Eric, Con Cariño, Taras. "I felt incredible, like always," he says breathlessly, his makeup smudged under the hot lights. "This is why I'm here."

Moving to his dressing room 30 minutes later, he gulps Diet Coke and pokes red spike earrings into both lobes before closing the door. Augustin Martin, a bespectacled 71-year-old who had seen the show, knocks on it. A bare-chested Taras cracks the door and peers into the crowded hall.

Martin praises, "You are an outstanding ballet dancer, but the best thing you have going for you is your mother."

The National Ballet of Cuba has felt the trio's absence. Friends tell them so. "They say, 'Oh, now there's nobody who dances as good,'" Miguel Angel says. "It's painful. I miss them a lot."

The Cuban stars, who were lauded for their Swan Lake performances, are San Francisco-bound. The company has extended contracts, but a spokeswoman declined to discuss the details until visas are granted.

For now, the trio will dance with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami.

One afternoon in March, when asked about his hopes for the future, Taras, wearing a black AC/DC shirt and sitting on the couch in their Pompano Beach home, replies simply: "Success."

His mother plops down next to him, kisses his arm, and softens his response. "And you want the audience to like you and to dance well no matter where you're at."

Taras nods in agreement and heads outside to smoke. Magaly is trying to get him to quit. These days the pair just enjoys normalcy — a mother who wants the best for her child and a son who wants time with his mom.

On this rare Friday afternoon free from dancing, Magaly follows Taras outside and asks, "Wanna drive?" as she fishes into her turquoise Coach purse. She pulls the front door closed, hands over the keys, and settles into the BMW's passenger seat. Like any other family, they head to the mall.

The Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami performs The Best of the Classical Repertoire May 10 and 11 at the Manuel Artime Theater in Little Havana. For more information, call 305-549-7711 or visit www.cubancbmiami.com.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami in our online slide show at www.miaminewtimes.com/slideshow.

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