The Gran Teatro de La Habana (Great Theather of Havana) will be reopened soon, following a lengthy renovation process.
It willl also be renamed after Alicia Alonso, Cuba’s most famous ballet dancer of all times.
Many have focused on the splendorous appearance of the renewed eclectic building, and the contrast with the numerous ruins surrounding it in one of the most visible spots of Old Havana.
An important fact related to the reopening of the theatre has been overlooked, however: the prices of the tickets will be increased to a point that will make them inaccessible for many people.
The new prices will range from 10 to 30 Cuban pesos, which may not seem as much if we look at them as the equivalent of 50 cents to 1.50 dollars. But in Cuba the latter represents almost two days’ pay for employees in state-run companies, whose average wage is 25 dollars.
When Alicia Alonso and her first husband Fernando Alonso founded the Ballet Nacional de Cuba ballet company in 1948, one of the things they wanted to change was the kind of audience who had access to ballet performances.
It was hard in the beginning, but the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 gave them the opportunity to do it.
The popular revolution generalized access to cultural products for everyone, and the prices of tickets for movie theathers, museums, and stadiums were lowered to the point of being almost symbolic.
Alicia and Fernando embraced the initiative: they took their company to shops, factories, to the countryside, the mountains, and remote rural communities, where they performed for workers, mechanics, peasants, and common people in general.
But the days when people used to attend a ballet performace after a work day at a factory will be a thing of the past in 2016. Retired people living on 7-dollar pensions will no longer be able to afford ballet tickets now, and university students will also have a hard time discovering ballet for the first time on those prices.
The parents of the dancers will not be able to attend all the presentations either, or invite co-workers and relatives to see their sons and daughters dancing, because there are no special prices for them.
Does Alicia approve of these prices? I want to believe she does not.
I hurt not only for past and present audiences, but mainly for those of the future.