Interview with Cuban Ballerina Linnet Gonzalez

Helson Hernandez

Mercedes de Don Quijote
Mercedes de Don Quijote

HAVANA TIMES — Linnet Gonzalez started professionally as a member of the National Ballet of Cuba and later she decided to pursue a career abroad. She went on to dance with the most important company in Belgium as a soloist in major classical roles, eventually returning to the island to pursue a significant dancing career.

HT: Could you tell us about the work “The Merchant and the Slave”?

Linnet Gonzalez: That was a pas de deux that influenced me a great deal in my last two years as a student. I was the first to dance it here at home, and I always loved dancing it…it left me very satisfied. With that pas des deux I also won the International Grand Prix Competition for students of ballet in Havana. I was the first female dancer to win it, and later I was awarded a gold medal at the Vignale Dance Competition in Italy.

HT: What did dance mean to other generations of your family.

LG: When my mother was a child, she danced all kinds of ballet on TV shows and she studied ballet. Similarly, my father — Francisco Lopez Gonzalez, or “Pancho,” as everyone calls him — is the great choreographer and artistic director. I’m very proud of both of them.


HT: What about your joining the National Ballet of Cuba?

LG: In 1997 I graduated with honors from the National School of Art (ENA), and I started my career as a professional with that company. From the very beginning I performed in roles as a soloist, even as a first soloist.

HT: It seems Belgium would present itself as a very desirable opportunity for any Cuban dancer.

LG: In 1999 I joined the Royal Ballet of Flanders, where I spent an amazing five years. At only 21, I was able to perform the title role of “Giselle.” I danced in many contemporary, classical and neoclassical roles. It was an unforgettable experience.

HT: What caused you to return to the National Ballet of Cuba after having achieved your status in Belgium?

LG: The government of Flanders wanted the company to do only contemporary works, meaning they didn’t want any more classical ballets. Therefore my decision was to return here to my country, which I missed a lot and where Alicia Alonso made it known that she would be waiting for me with open arms.

HT: Why did you leave the stage so young and with your career in full bloom?

LG: I stopped dancing for health reasons – I suffered from two herniated discs. In February 2007, I underwent an operation for one of those injuries. I later recovered well, and within 20 days after the surgery I began teaching at the National Ballet. In two more months I was dancing the dos Willis in the ballet “Giselle” and the pas de deux in “Don Quixote,” though my back was still bothering me a lot.

I had to take all types of medications to withstand the pain and keep dancing. Two years later, though, I decided to stop dancing. Another hernia was also showing its signs, so I couldn’t continue like that.

Ballo de la Regina
Ballo de la Regina

HT: Let’s talk about the new stage you’re experiencing in your professional world.

LG: First of all I have to thank Alicia Alonso for giving me the opportunity to once again be a part of the National Ballet of Cuba, now as the Maître of the company. It makes me happy when I give classes in the mornings, when I lead rehearsals of some ballet and of course when I see the results on the stage. It’s amazing, when I used to dance I never became jumpy, but now I get nervous when I watch the performances of the dancers I’ve trained. It doesn’t go away until they are done and I hear the applause.  Besides, I also love to pass on to them all the experiences I’ve had as a performer.

HT: What would you say to the next generation that will determine the future of the Cuban Ballet?

LG: Right now the company is very young and they dance in leading roles too soon, so we have to help them mature rapidly on stage. We have to show them everything they need. We have to let them know about the professional lives of dancers and help them every day to become better dancers.