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Cuban ballet dancer that defected to perform in Tampa
By Alberto de la Cruz on 04/23/2011 – 10:54 am PDT

Playing the character for the Patel Conservatory's Next Generation
Ballet production is a 21-year-old professional dancer named Nieser
Zambrana.

Four months ago, Zambrana was part of the strictly classical
National Ballet of Cuba, living off $20 a month in a dorm-style dance
company apartment in Havana and itching for .

If only he could get to America, Zambrana thought, he could perform
any number of dance styles with any number of dance companies. He could
live on his own and support himself and a future family.

Cuba was home, but America was opportunity.

The big break came with a company tour in . Defecting,
Zambrana said, would be as simple as making his way to the border and
setting foot on U.S. soil.

It also would mean never returning.

Two weeks before the trip, Zambrana called his grandmother and
asked her what to do.

"Go," she told him.

"Now."

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