FRIDAY TO SUNDAY

The island country of Cuba is usually associated with hand-rolled Cohibas, exceptionally good rum, and a loud-mouthed dictator who goes by Fidel. But Cuba’s oft-overlooked cultural offerings extend well beyond spirits, smokes, politics, and even the Buena Vista Social Club. Havana’s Ballet Nacional de Cuba is one of the most respected ballet companies in the world. Alicia Alonso, who at 79 holds the rare title of prima ballerina assoluta, founded the troupe in 1948. And while the rest of the world was preoccupied with the rise of Castro, Alonzo was quietly building a company that would gain respect and praise for its impeccable footwork and timing. The group regularly tours Europe, Asia, and South America, but because of tensions between the United States and Cuba, the company didn’t perform in this country for more than 20 years. This engagement includes performances of Coppelia and Giselle, the classic love story that brought Alonso acclaim back when she danced in the title role. The ballet’s appearance is being sponsored by Phillip Morris Companies Inc., purveyors of Marlboros and High Life—poor substitutes for their Cuban counterparts. At least with the ballet, they’re giving us the best. Performances are at 2 and 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, and Saturday, Nov. 24; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House. $26-$65. (202) 467-4600. (Sarah Godfrey)