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Cuban ballet school welcomes first American full-time

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 01:32

Michigan-native, 18-year-old Catherine Conley, has become the first American to train full-time at Cuba's prestigious National Ballet School after diplomatic relations between the two countries normalized. Jillian Kitchener reports.

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The dance may be familiar, but as a ballerina, Catherine Conley is something of a pioneer. A native of Pentwater, Michigan, she is the first full time American student to attend Cuba's prestigious National Ballet School. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CATHERINE CONLEY, THE FIRST AMERICAN TO STUDY AT CUBA'S PRESTIGIOUS NATIONAL BALLET SCHOOL, SAYING: "I went to regular high school and then I studied after school. And then this year I'm spending the whole year just dancing, just focusing on dance. So there's that aspect but also being here in Cuba-- not just for dance-- is a really eye-opening experience." This ballet school has produced many dance stars... and has long trained many foreign dancers. But no American had joined its full-time program during more than 50 years of diplomatic tension between Cuba and the U.S. And now Victor Alexander from Chicago's Ruth Page Center for the Arts, is helping bring about change. (SOUNDBITE) (English) VICTOR ALEXANDER, THE DIRECTOR OF THE RUTH PAGE CENTRE FOR THE ARTS IN CHICAGO, SAYING: "I think Catherine is the first of many students. We are planning to send another student in January and then we will see what happens from there. I'm just glad and thrilled with the whole idea of being able to establish this exchange and this collaboration with a school of this caliber." And Alexander says normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations has made the process easier. Which means, dancers like Catherine Conley will get to learn their art...in the renowned Cuban style.

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Cuban ballet school welcomes first American full-time

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 01:32