Valentine's Day will be something to dance about this year for Francia Russell, co-director of Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet, one of the nation's top regional companies. For on that day Russell flies off to Havana as part of an eight-day cultural exchange project sponsored by the University of Washington's Center for Women and Democracy.
At the heart of her visit: a reunion with 82-year-old Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso, whom Russell hasn't seen in nearly half a century.
In those days, Alonso was a great star at American Ballet Theatre, someone who, Russell says, "was my heroine as a young, aspiring ballet student in New York and who has continued to be a great inspiration in my dance career."
Russell will bring 100 pairs of pointe shoes as a gift for Alonso's Ballet Nacional de Cuba company and school. In addition, Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Patricia Barker will bring rehearsal clothing from her line of dancewear, BKwear.Russell and Barker will travel with a 35-woman delegation that has scheduled meetings with Cuban women's leaders, along with various workshops and round-table discussions. Russell says she also hopes to investigate "possibilities for international touring, which is a very vital part of PNB's artistic mission, as well as furthering ties between our two peoples."
-- Lewis Segal