Boy triplets a sensation at top Cuba ballet school
In this April 3, 2013 photo, identical triplets Marcos, Cesar and Angel Ramirez Castellanos stand at the bar at the start of ballet class at the National School of Ballet in Havana, Cuba. The triplets say they fell in love with dance in 2007 when their mother took them to see a performance of "The Nutcracker," which is put on every Christmas season and costs just pennies to attend. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
HAVANA (AP) — Visitors to the elite feeder school for Cuba's renowned National Ballet might be forgiven for thinking they're suddenly seeing triple.
Identical triplets Angel, Cesar and Marcos Ramirez wear matching black leotards and white socks as they leap, prance and twirl across the linoleum floor of the mirrored studio. They share the same wiry build, olive complexion, mussed hairstyles and coffee-colored eyes. And they speak the same fast-paced Spanish in the high-pitched voice of children.
Even their instructors have trouble telling the Ramirez boys apart, but they say the 13-year-olds have already separated themselves from their peers technically and artistically, and all three have the talent to make a big splash in the ballet world when they grow up.
If they succeed, they will join a long line of celebrated dancers trained in Cuba, where fans from every social stratum follow the careers of ballet stars like Carlos Acosta and Rolando Sarabia as closely as those of baseball players or boxers.
In this April 3, 2013 photo, young ballet students practice before a class at the National School of Ballet in Havana, Cuba. The school, housed in a graceful building that occupies a full half-block in colonial Old Havana, not only teaches dance, but subjects like language, math and history. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
"I want to be a dancer. The National Ballet of Cuba turns out great male dancers," said Marcos, sweat dripping from his face after a recent workout in the steamy studio as his brothers nodded in agreement. "And go on tour in many countries and travel the world by dancing."
Toward that end, the Ramirez brothers spend 12 hours a day at the National School of Ballet, housed in a graceful, cream-porticoed building that occupies a full half-block in colonial Old Havana. Classes include not only dance, but more mundane subjects like language, math and history.
A former social club with broad hallways and a majestic marble staircase, this is where the creme de la creme of young dancers from across the country train for a shot at stardom.
The school was founded seven decades ago by famed prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso, now age 92, who is probably the most recognized person in Cuba not named "Castro."