Lead ballerina from Cuban National Ballet defects island and now shines in Miami

Ballerina Amaya Rodríguez has danced the classic romantic ballet “Giselle” before.

But when she danced the lead part in “Giselle” on Saturday, it marked a new chapter in her life. It was her debut in the U.S.

The 28-year-old, who defected from Cuba several months ago, used to be the principal ballerina in the Cuban National Ballet before coming to the United States.

Rodríguez performed in “Giselle” with fellow former Cuban National Ballet dancers Mayrel Martínez and Masiel Alonso, who defected this year during a tour in Canada. Martínez and Alonso came to the United States in May.

“This will be a very emotional experience for me,” Rodríguez said to Fox News Latino on Friday. “This is the second time I’m performing ‘Giselle,’ but the first time in this land.”

Rodríguez said she decided to defect because of the limited opportunities in Cuba for ballet dancers to express their creativity and broaden their horizons. It is the reason that many Cuban ballet dancers flee the island.

“In Cuba, they focus on the classics,” Rodríguez said, “I wanted to do other dances, perhaps modern dance.”

Rodríguez, Martínez and Alonso made their U.S. debut with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. The ballerinas also will be dancing “Pas de Trois,” from the Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake.”

“We’re going to dance Giselle and Pas de Trois, which is one we wanted to perform a lot in Cuba but we never had the opportunity,” Martínez said in an interview earlier this year with WCGU Radio.

Pedro Pablo Peña, the artistic director and founder of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, said the performance is moving to him on many levels.

“I am Cuban,” Peña told WCGU Radio. “And for me it’s very important to help the dancers when [they are] coming for the first time to the United States.”

Rodríguez said the training for the Miami debut has been rigorous, and that her “Giselle” performance will be quite different than that of her dance in Cuba.

“’Giselle’ is a very demanding role,” Rodríguez said. “Your moves are very controlled, but they have to be flowing. You cannot make any brusque moves. There is a lot of technical detail that you must master and be constantly tuned into while you’re performing.”

The ballerina says what she misses most in the United States is her family, which is still in Cuba.

“I’m away from them, I cannot see them.”

Her husband, a retired ballet dancer, came to the United States with her.

“I am thankful for that,” she said. “He is a true pillar in my life. He knows ballet, he supports me, he encourages me. He is my rock.”

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for, and can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.