Indianapolis native Chris Lingner and Cuban-born Rodrigo Almarales are two bold, young entrepreneurs, currently dancing with the Cincinnati Ballet, who will bring an epic experience to a worldwide audience: on August 20, 12 of the hottest international ballet stars will take the stage under the lights of the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso in Havana, Cuba for the Ballet Royalty Gala.
"The theater is usually the hardest part of the equation, but in this case, we had the theater before we had the dancers," Lingner says.
"This is an event in Cuba, but it's really an event for the world," Lingner says.
And he's right. The US has only recently reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba and even more recently have airlines been permitted to fly directly between the US and Cuba.
"Cuba really is something special and it has many places and ideas worth sharing," Lingner says. "Rodrigo and I are really excited about this entire project. We've worked really hard this past year to make this happen — and even when we had a five minute break, it was put to use coordinating this project. We're really proud of all the synchronized efforts. So many have been willing to help us. It's really great to do something for the fans on this big of a scale. It's being produced as if it's the Oscars and we're going to try to come as close as we can to that level."
Almarales himself, will dance in the show, while Lingner has taken on production efforts. Both gentlemen have managed to arrange for 12 internationally acclaimed and admired ballet stars to perform in one of the world's most beautiful yet enigmatic areas, all the while livestreaming the event around the world for fans to enjoy.
And these dancers are a big deal. Aside from Almarales himself, other dancers include: Iana Salenko, Ivan Vasiliev, Daniil Simkin, Maria Kochetkova, Semyon Chudin, Misa Kuranaga, Joseph Michael Gatti, Jurgita Dronina, Matthew Golding and Adiarys Almeida.
Before work could begin, Lingner had to first visit Cuba — and received a warm welcome from the Minister of Culture, as well as from locals and Almarales' family. "It was eye-opening, a very different culture," Lingner says. "Some people have said Cuba is not just a country but its own planet. And they're right. People talk to each other over there — they welcome each other. Doors are, literally, almost always open. There's only so much of something to go around and so they help one another. It's such a chill, carefree environment. And safe! I heard no guns while there and I saw no violence while I was there, either. My Spanish is limited, so I relied on the kindness of Rodrigo's family and their friends to help me around. And even with all of the major stars and films and events they've had in the past and even going on right now, everyone treated us so well while we there — and not just that. They treated us like we were important, like we were the next big thing. There was no finger wagging because we were Americans — in fact, we were taken very seriously and treated very genuinely. I'll never forget that."
"There's a new dancer coming aboard for the show, as well. And we're planning a show next year for others who may want an opportunity like this. But I really want to humanize these amazing artists for this event, too" Lingner says of the special features and behind-the-scenes features seen during the livestream. "I really want everyone to be able to take advantage of this opportunity, to see this show no matter what time zone they're in. And while nothing replaces actually being in the theater with the performers, it's become clear to me that the way content is being consumed is evolving, and I really think this event will bring our art to a new level and into the 21st century."