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Spacecraft snaps close-up images of comet

Members of the American Ballet Theater danced in Cuba for the first time in 50 years on Wednesday in a tribute to the troupe’s former prima ballerina, Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso.

In Cuba, Dancing With a Full Heart

HAVANA—American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Xiomara Reyes opened her wheeled luggage and lifted out bag after bag of ballet shoes and clothing. The supplies were for students at Pro Danza, a school and company with which Ms. Reyes danced as a teenager growing up in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.

Ballet From New York Arrives in Cuba

A visit to Havana by New York City’s American Ballet Theatre is part of a festival celebrating Alicia Alonso, the Cuban ballerina and founder of the National Ballet of Cuba.

When Ms. Reyes attended Pro Danza, which is located in the Havana neighborhood of Marianao, it was a something of a second-company within the National Ballet of Cuba, and served as a fast-track to stage time. It is now an independent operation with more than 40 company dancers, 200 students and 10 teachers. Its general director, Laura Alonso, is the daughter of Alicia and Fernando Alonso, who were instrumental in establishing a Cuban style of ballet and in founding the National Ballet of Cuba. American Ballet Theatre is in Cuba this week for the first time in 50 years, in part to pay homage to Ms. Alonso, 90, who danced with ABT in New York in the 1940s and ’50s before returning to her homeland.

Pro Danza allowed Ms. Reyes, who left Cuba for Europe at age 19 before joining American Ballet Theatre in 2001, to explore leading roles well before she could have with the main company. “When you were in the company, you had to go through all the stages very slowly—corps de ballet, soloist, principal,” she said on Wednesday just before visiting the Pro Danza facility. “At that time, it would take a very long time to do a principal role.”

Ms. Reyes joined the National Ballet’s school when she was 9 years old and joined the company at 17. Meanwhile, she participated with Pro Danza starting at age 14, and enjoyed leading roles in “Don Quixote,” “Coppelia” and “Three Musketeers.” She also danced several classical pas de deux, including “Diana and Acteon,” which she will dance again here in Cuba.

American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Xiomara Reyes visits the Pro Danza school in the Havana neighborhood of Marianao, where she trained as a child.

“I’m going to do it tomorrow,” she said. “I did it like 100 times with them here. I’m a little nervous that they’ll say, ‘Oh you did it better before!'”

Given the intensity and energy that beams from Laura Alonso, it’s not an unreasonable concern. To house her growing company, Ms. Alonso renovated a palace—allegedly built for a duchess—into a dance studio. How did that happen? “Slowly,” she said. “With donations from around the world.”

Though the company is supported by the Cuban government, it has a wide network of international benefactors. The Canadian Embassy donated the funds to create a classroom in honor of a renowned Canadian teacher. Philanthropist and wine distributor Marcel-Andre Clement (who was onsite Wednesday, wearing an Alvin Ailey cap) is based in Guadeloupe and actively raises money for new works, supplies and company tours.

Ballet students take a break outside the Pro Danza school in Havana. One of its alumni, Xiomara Reyes, now dances with American Ballet Theatre.

What Ms. Alonso gives back are highly trained dancers. “An artist belongs to the world,” she said, adding that a teacher’s best hope for her school is that its students reach the international level. “Xiomara is still from here. All my students come back.”

The message that she wants her dancers to take with them is one of wholeness. “I think a dancer should be a complete artist. Not only pointing your feet—which is like saying good morning. But in the feeling. The art, it has to be there.”

Ms. Alonso gave Ms. Reyes a tour of Pro Danza, which has been housed in this marble and wrought-iron hodge-podge building since 1984. A men’s class was in session in a room heavy with humidity and sweat. Down the open corridor, a seamstress in the costume shop was working on a dress for “Dracula.” A scrawny dog wandered into the second-floor hallway just as the women’s class let out and dancers milled around.

The setting—a beat-the-odds ballet studio in this rough, polluted neighborhood—made even clearer why, when Ms. Reyes was asked about her greatest lesson during her time with Ms. Alonso, she replied: “Not to be afraid.”

Have to keep this one… (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ruled out running for president in 2012 or 2016 on Friday, saying the United States should be ready for a woman president but it would not be her.

Clinton said she hoped the United States was ready for a female president, adding “it should be.”

Asked if it might be her, she replied: “Well, not me. But it will be someone and it is nice coming to countries that have already proven that they can elect women to the highest governing positions that they have in their systems.”

 

Obama’s Election Debacle: A Settling of Accounts with Mr. Perfect – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International

 

This is like Dak said, an Obama Obit…

 

The Democrats suffered a debacle at the polls in the US on Tuesday — and President Barack Obama is to blame. Once celebrated as a great communicator, the president has lost touch with the mood in his country. Now, he must re-invent himself. But can he succeed?

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama will be leaving Washington behind. He is embarking on a trip to Asia, including a stop in Indonesia. The flight is a long one — almost an entire day. But Obama lived for a time in Indonesia as a child, and the feeling of being at home is something the president could use these days.

After the Congressional elections on Tuesday, it is certainly not a feeling he can enjoy in the US. The president can analyze the results all he wants, the dramatic losses his Democrats experienced at the polls and the loss of control of the House of Representatives. But he is unlikely to find a simple answer to the question as to how he should proceed.

To the right he is confronted by the stark hatred of the Tea Party movement. In the political center, voters abandoned Obama in droves. And on the left there are complaints that instead of Mr. Change, Obama has turned into Mr. Weakling. Young voters and African Americans are, of course, still behind Obama, but many of them didn’t even bother to cast their ballots on Tuesday.

The debacle, the largest loss of seats for the president’s party in more than half a century, isn’t just a warning for Obama. It is a demolition. For two years, Obama was allowed to hope that he had managed to capture the heads of American voters in addition to their hearts. In fact, however, he only managed to find his way to their hearts, and only for a short time.

The Country’s Lecturer-in-Chief

America, indeed the entire world, fell in love with the idea in November, 2008 of having a young, black president in the White House. Voters felt that they could be a part of the change that they so wanted — a change that Obama promised so eloquently.

But the voters’ affection evaporated quickly. Campaigns are like poetry, it is said, whereas governing is prose. To be sure, the crises Obama faced when he took the oath of office were enormous. But so too were the opportunities — like that of explaining to Americans how urgently reforms were needed.

Obama, the great communicator, turned into the country’s lecturer-in-chief. His reforms required a vision to give them an overarching structure. But instead, Obama preferred to go on about the failures of his predecessor George W. Bush, who had long retired to his ranch in Texas. Or else he analyzed how the impact of the global recession would have been far worse without him and his economic rescue team.

His advisors seem to still believe that the public just doesn’t understand how much good Obama has achieved, from health care reform to tougher regulations for the Wall Street gamblers.

They may well be right. But they are not doing the president any favors. No American without work wants to hear how the unemployment figures would be at 15 percent instead of 10 percent if it were not for the man in the White House. And no one casts their vote out of gratitude.

Uncertainty in America

It seems to have escaped Obama, the great listener, just how fragile the American Dream has become for many Americans or how much they yearn for clear words about their future — rather than details about health insurance. Instead of listening he has become deaf in the White House. He has not understood how uncertain Americans have become. Perhaps because he has always seemed so self-assured himself.

From day one Obama made it look as if he had grown up in the Oval Office — and continued in his role there as Mr. Perfect: the slender athlete, the award-winning author, the smooth orator, the loving husband and father. Not to mention, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

When America is feeling self-confident and optimistic it can adore this kind of president, like John F. Kennedy was idolized during the Camelot era. However, an America that is uncertain and at odds with itself can find it hard to place its trust in someone who seems so perfect. That too helps to explain why so many people see the former community worker as a member of the establishment — someone who is allegedly in cahoots with Wall Street and who doesn’t take care of ordinary people.

One may find it ironic, unfair even, that the Republicans are profiting from this. But Obama must realize that he himself is part of the problem. That is his only chance of repeating Bill Clinton’s success. Clinton shifted towards the center following the crushing defeat for his Democrats in the 1994 Congressional elections.

Becoming More Humble

Clinton accepted criticism and listened to it. He joked about his weaknesses. It was in his nature to court opponents. After his mid-term defeat he quickly cooperated with the Republicans to forge a major welfare reform.

Obama has never had to court favor, people regarded him as a star right from the start. He takes himself seriously, he only trusts a small number of close aides and he finds it hard to charm members of Congress.

But he has no alternative now. He has to take the anger of the voters seriously even if they supported the Tea Party. He may even have to negotiate with Republicans about measures to curb the budget deficit. The political messiah needs to eat a piece of humble pie.

Clinton responded to his mid-term setback by singling out small issues that he could turn into big victories. Suddenly the world’s most powerful man was fighting for school uniforms or television programming for children. These were minor policies, but they were popular. Clinton soon managed to claw himself back up in opinion polls.

During the election campaign Obama poked fun at such maneuvers. After all, he wanted to change the country. “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,” he said in January. If he sticks to that view, he won’t have the choice.

 

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