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A night at the ballet in Havana is a real treat, but there are certain rules of etiquette that you need to keep in mind. Here are the things you need to know before you go.
The ballet is an elegant affair and there is a dress code to match. Shorts and flip-flops are banned, so guys, make sure you wear long trousers, and women, wear trousers or a skirt.
There are signs all around the theatre about the ban on photos and recordings. If you even raise your phone or camera during the performance, you’re likely to receive a swift visit from one of the many ushers; they’re certainly not shy about shutting people down.
Cuba is a hotbed of hustlers, and plenty of people promise cut-price tickets to any event that you ask about. Always buy your ballet tickets from the theatre itself to avoid problems.
Even if you can sneak something in past the ushers, chances are you’ll be found out very quickly once you’re in your seat. There are staff everywhere, and the food and drink ban is very strictly upheld.
Space is limited inside the theatre, and you could be turned away if you try to enter with a large backpack. You’re better off bringing only the essentials. After all, you’ll want to dress up so you can fit in.
The ballet is beautiful, but it’s not the easiest way to tell a story. If you want to follow the plot, you’re better off looking it up before you arrive. There are programmes available but they will be in Spanish, so if you don’t speak the lingo you’ll need to hop onto Wikipedia before you get here.
While chattering is frowned upon in most theatres around the world, there appears to be a particular dislike of talking during performances in Cuba. It’s remarkable to see how almost everyone sits in silence throughout.
It’s worth buying a decent seat, a programme, and even some overpriced drinks before the curtain goes up. It might seem expensive compared to other experiences in Cuba, but remember that you’re most likely saving lots of money over going to the ballet at home. Go on; treat yourself.
Cuba has a reputation as a place for partying, where the rum flows freely. The ballet is an exception to that. Don’t turn up drunk, talk loudly and expect a raucous atmosphere. The Cuban ballet is a place of quiet refinement, so enjoy the oasis of calm while it lasts.
Performers love to know that you have enjoyed the show. Let loose with the clapping and don’t be too reserved. You might even hear whooping and shouts of “bravo” from the locals, so join in if the feeling takes you.
If you’re not a huge ballet fan, you may not be aware of the history and pedigree of Cuban ballet. It’s a highly professional operation, so don’t expect a sub-par performance. Give the dancers the respect they deserve.