FLORIDA, United States, Monday June 16, 2014 – A group of dancers who defected over the weekend from the National Ballet of Cuba appeared at a press conference in Miami this week and said they planned to pursue careers in the United States.
The six dancers had been performing in Puerto Rico before abandoning the tour on Sunday and flying to Florida.
A seventh dancer defected but stayed behind with friends in Puerto Rico.
Speaking at the press conference, the six dancers, all under the age of 25, said they had discussed the idea of defecting with family and friends for some time.
“I thought about this for months before the tour,” said Ariel Soto Cantora, 23. “Each of us decided on our own but didn’t come with each other,” he added.
Cuban exiles are granted special immigration privileges, as well as financial benefits to help them get on their feet in the United States, under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Sunday’s defection marked the second major defection of Cuban ballet dancers in the United States in a little over a year.
Members of the Cuban national ballet, especially the principals and soloists, enjoy privileged lives in the Caribbean communist country, but earn paltry salaries of $10 to $30 monthly plus bonuses for foreign tours.
Many of its dancers have defected and enjoyed successful careers abroad over the years.