The Ballet Nacional de Cuba has a reputation of being one of the finest and most distinct ballet companies on Earth. It is also one of the most controversial, owing to the fact that it is funded by the Cuban Government and a darling of Fidel Castro. Of course in a Communist country being funded by the government is how things work, but in the case of a performance company that travels the world, there is the issue of national representation.

The question of how the company reflects the nation has political undertones. On the one hand, the repertoire of BNC is very tame. They perform ballet classics like “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker” – hardly subversive pieces of communist propaganda. The political drama has come with the defection of company members. Over the last 40 years, more than two-dozen dancers have illegally left the company and started new lives and careers outside of Cuba.

Despite this recurring exodus of dancers and Cuba’s poor economy, the BNC has maintained very high standards in its work. It is still led by the legendary Alicia Alonso, who founded the company over 60 years ago and just turned 90 this year. A one-time dancer for ballet icon George Balanchine, Alonso was known for her technical expertise during her dancing days and has since become a symbol of Cuba’s resistance to Western Imperialism through her commitment to the company.

The BNC benefits from a Cuban culture that puts tremendous value on the art of dance. More than being a nice form of self-expression, dance in Cuba is part of everyday life and can be seen in the rich folklore and popular dance forms of the island.

The company comes to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to perform “Don Quixote,” the story of an old man who fancies himself a noble knight. Is there a metaphor here? Is Don Quixote really Castro, Alonso or the delusional thinking of defunct political and economic system, like capitalism or communism? Perhaps we look too deep. Better to enjoy the magnificent dancing and let the politics play themselves out.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is located at 135 N. Grand Ave., Downtown. For more information, visit