US ballet troupe to dance in Cuba for first time in 50 years

American Ballet Theater, one of the leading US classical dance companies, will perform in Havana, Cuba this year for the first time in a half-century, the company said Wednesday.

The visit, part of Havana's International Ballet Festival on November 3 and 4, will mark the New York-based company's first visit to the island since 1960, according to ABT executive director Rachel Moore, who said her company eagerly anticipates the visit.

"We believe in the power of the arts to connect people and transform lives," Moore said in a statement. She added that soloists and principal dancers from her famed company will be featured at additional performances in Havana on November 5 and 6.

"We really do believe this trip in November will be a bridge between two artistic communities."

The announcement comes amid rumors that the US administration is considering easing the decades-old trade embargo against its Cold War-era nemesis.

Unconfirmed US media reports said this week that the Obama administration will soon ease some restrictions on US travel to Cuba and other sanctions following Havana's promise to free political prisoners.

The rumored changes reportedly will expand educational and cultural visits and restore the broader "people-to-people" exchanges inaugurated under the Bill Clinton administration, but curtailed by his White House successor George W. Bush.

The visit also reciprocates a trip made earlier this year to the United States by Alicia Alonso, Cuba's most famous ballerina and the head of its national ballet company.

Alonso, 90, has been an ambassador of the 1959 Cuban revolution, which set off decades of tensions with the United States including trade sanctions which continue to this day.

Alonso was the honored guest at a June 3 tribute at New York's Metropolitan Opera House for her life's achievements in ballet.

The Cuban prima ballerina and choreographer began her professional career with the American Ballet Theater, where she danced the main role in Giselle in a critically-acclaimed performance in 1943.

Although she is almost blind and now struggling to walk, Alonso still actively directs the communist-ruled island's national ballet.

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