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Carlos Miguel Guerra is rushing through the doors of Miami City Ballet, barely making it on time to rehearsal. It's just a few days before the opening of his ninth season with the company. "Dance is great," he says. "It's great, but a lot of responsibility and pressure."
They are words that ring true for any professional artist, but perhaps most of all for the Cubans who, for reasons political, artistic, and monetary, have defected during the past two decades. It is a phenomenon that has infused nearly every major American company with the particular classical style of the island nation's ballet. It has also turned Cuban dancers into the hottest commodity since Russian-trained ballerinas escaped the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Guerra, who trained at the Professional School of Ballet and Plastic Arts in Camagüey, never intended to be away from Cuba for more than a year. In 1998, as a promising young dancer, he was recruited by the Ballet Company of Santiago in Chile and received permission to leave for a short while. And he might have returned had it not been for Sábado Gigante.
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In 2000, producers arranged for the star performer to surprise his grandmother, who hadn't seen him in years. She lived in Miami along with several other relatives. He received a visa in two days and packed enough clothes for a four-day trip. But after all of the emotional hugging and dramatic music had waned, Guerra's family wasn't ready to let go. "They even wanted to hold onto my passport so I couldn't fly back to Chile," he remembers.
Guerra's aunt persuaded him to audition with Miami City Ballet the following day, and the director, impressed by the lithe, baby-faced, classically trained dancer, offered him a position as a soloist. He waited six anxiety-ridden months for immigration papers, but all the angst dissipated his first day of training. The director placed Guerra with a graceful brunet ballerina from Queens named Jennifer Kronenberg. "We were pretty much dancing the whole day together," Guerra reminisces about the woman he would marry six and a half years later.
Now, at age 31, he and his wife live in Coconut Grove and are principal dancers. "Every time we go onstage, it's a beautiful feeling," he says, "because we are so comfortable and have so much to give to each other." In March, the couple will dance the title roles in Romeo and Juliet, a tale of star-crossed lovers from two different worlds. It's sure to be among the most believable of enactments.
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