Jean’s letter from Cuba

Dear Friends,

This letter is overdue as i caught bronchitis during my last two days in Cuba and the long trip didn’t help with its three hour delay. However I am much better now. I went with Hamish and three of my dancer friends. As always, at this time of the year, Havana was bathed in glorious warm sunshine.

Your money has been put to very good use and for two days we celebrated the newly renovated Miramar Theatre. Slides of its run down state showed just how much work had gone into the restioration. The auditorium has Kirsty’s name over it and many of the seats have the names of benfactors ,who have also generously supported the Music Fund. The stage is beautidfully proportioned, has a smooth wood floor and the acoustics are excellent. Lighting and sound are first rate, the dressing room accommodation was good and I believe there will be an area for snacks and drinks. This corner plot is in an area where there are many children and not only is the theatre for talented children but it will also be used by local visually impaired children who will be able to use the rehearsal spaces.

Omar Puente, Kirsty’s great friend and superb violinist, arranged the celebratory concerts. He opened the evening with his composition,’Farewell to a Friend’. We are hoping to be allowed to put it on the web site.

Omar had coached the Havana Music School students to play two of Kirsty’s songs and the choir did their very best to sing them in English after only two weeks tuition!! I was so taken by surprise that I cannot remember the first song but the second was, ‘Not in these Shoes’. A young opera singer followed and after speeches from Cuban Solidarity and other officials thanking us, I explained briefly how the theatre had come about. I spoke of the corruption in the Mexican goverments and the hypocrisy and deceit of Gonzalez Nova and his sons who obviously had friends in high places. Justice was never going to be done so Kirsty’s fans and committee decided all the money should go to the Music Fund originally bearing Kirsty’s name. Something good and very worthwhile had been achieved of which Kirsty would be enormously proud. I had an interpreter but the audience showed their deep feelings by standing and clapping. I felt it was important they all knew how it began.

It was then time to celebrate. Folk dancers followed musicians. A contemporary dance choreography by a 16 year old boy was superb. A ‘pas de deux’, performed by a young couple about 12 years old. The male dancer leapt and twirled, obviously heading to be the next Carlos Agosta. Finally the young circus acrobats came on like seasoned troopers. No safety nets, they climbed up each other three oe four people high, upside down some times then leaping lightly to the stage floor. I think the opera singer may have been 17 but the rest of the performerrs were much younger.

We all went out to celebrate at a restaurant which Hamish had found. For 2 pesos, about £2, we could eat a good Cuban meal of rice, beans and roast chicken or meat with wine or beer.

The following day there were young folk dancers. There is no doubt that the youngsters were very proud of their new theatre and congregated outside it with a proprietarial air! We attended two drinks meetings of thanks and one memorable day went to the contemporary dnace, music and circus schools for talented youngsters. We met the young choreographer and congratulated him. I had worked here when visiting nine years ago. I was pleased to see their studio was very much improved.

The music school put on a performance, a violinist acompanied by a pianist, both of a very high standard followed by a group drumming and singing. Then to the circus school where we were told that some youngsters left the classical ballet to join the circus training. I can’t imagine people leaving our Royal Ballet to join up as a circus performer! After that my party went shopping, swimming. All want to go back.

Finally, congratulate youselves. Your support has provided a wonderful background for young talented artists and also for disabled children. Kirsty would be so happy and amazed but then, she is probably watching over it.