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Home to HavanaAriel Serrano watches his son, Francisco – better known as ‘Panchi’ – during technique class at an international gathering of ballet students at the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana. 
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Home to HavanaFrancisco Serrano works during a partnering class at the Cuban National Ballet School. 
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Home to HavanaA group of female ballet students wait for a boy’s technique class to finish at the Cuban National Ballet School. Over the past half-century the school has turned out some of the world’s finest dancers, most of whom have defected in order to perform internationally.
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Home to HavanaA student carries a portable barre down a hallway at the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana. The school is housed in an ornate building that was once a social club for the Spanish elite.
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Home to HavanaPhotos and drawings of past graduates of the Cuban National Ballet School line the walls of the current school in Havana. The school has turned out some of the world’s best dancers, but many have defected in order to pursue international careers. 
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Home to HavanaFrancisco Serrano, a student at the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, recently won a full scholarship to the Royal Ballet in London. Here he practices a jump at the National Ballet School in Cuba, where his parents trained. 
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Home to HavanaAt a recent international ballet festival and workshop at Cuba’s National Ballet School, outside class many of the students wore uniforms designating their particular school or country. 
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Home to HavanaStudents transition between classes during an international festival at the National Ballet School in Havana.
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Home to HavanaA view across the open central courtyard at the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, where students from the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School recently took part in an international ballet festival and workshop. 
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Home to HavanaCamilla Serrano, of Sarasota, (second from left) joins other students at Cuba’s National Ballet School, in performing a variation from “Swan Lake” during a class at the Concurso Internacional para Jovenes Estudiants de Ballet, an international ballet festival and workshop in Havana.
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Home to HavanaAriel Serrano outside the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana. Serrano, a Cuban native who trained with the school in the 1980s, defected to the U.S. in 1993, but recently returned to bring his children and students from the school he founded in Sarasota to an international ballet festival and workshop there. 
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Home to HavanaReflections in the window of Havana’s Teatro Garcia Lorca, a building now under reconstruction that once housed the Cuban National Ballet. “If they fix this, it’s gonna be a jewel,” says Ariel Serrano, who once danced there and recently returned with his children- both students from the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, which he founded.
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Home to HavanaThough born in Sarasota, Francisco Serrano has a conversational grasp of Spanish through his Cuban-born parents, Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez. His knowledge not only helped him to determine taxi fares and understand directions during a recent visit to Havana, but also to converse with Mexican and South American students who participated in an international ballet workshop and competition there.
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Home to HavanaBackstage at Havana’s Teatro Nacional, ballet students prepare for the opening round of the XX Encuentro Internacional de Academias para La Ensenanza del Ballet, an international competition in Cuba. 
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Home to HavanaFFrancisco Serrano, of Sarasota, who began dancing at the age of 13, recently competed in international ballet competition in Havana. Serrano’s parents, Wilmian Hernandez and Ariel Serrano, are Cuban natives and former dancers who defected to the U.S. in the 1990s. 
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Home to HavanaFrancisco Serrano warms up his feet in the wings of the Teatro Nacional prior to his performance for an international ballet competition in Havana, the land of his parents’ birth. Serrano was the first American to compete in the history of the competition and he took home a gold medal.
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Home to HavanaFrancisco Serrano, a student with the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School and the son of Cuban defectors, practices on stage during the warmup for an international ballet competition in Havana. 
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Home to HavanaA dancer awaits her turn to perform at a recent international ballet competition held in Havana. 
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Home to HavanaAriel Serrano, a former Cuban dancer who defected to the U.S. in 1993, coaches his 17-year-old son, Francisco, on the stage of Havana’s Teatro Nacional before Francisco’s performance in an international ballet competition there. “For me, this is the realization,” Serrano says. “This is my boy, dancing in my yard.” 
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Home to HavanaFrancisco Serrano stretches in preparation for rehearsals at the Teatro Nacional in Havana. When he started ballet classes – belatedly, at the age of 13 – Serrano couldn’t touch his toes. After four years of intense training, most of it with his Cuban father, Ariel Serrano, Francisco - known as 'Panchi' - has earned a scholarship to the Royal Ballet in London and a gold medal at an April 2014 international competition in Cuba. 
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Home to HavanaMakeup artists prepare Francisco Serrano for his performance in the finale of an international ballet competition in Havana. The woman applying his makeup once did the same for his mother, Wilmian Hernandez, when she was a student at Cuba’s National Ballet School, before she defected to the United States. 
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Home to HavanaFrancisco Serrano, 17, the son of Cuban natives Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Heranandez, recently won a gold medal in an international ballet competition in Havana. Serrano was the first American to compete in the competition's history.
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Home to HavanaOn the stage of Havana’s Teatro Nacional, an announcer prepares to read the placements of the Encuentro Internacional, an international ballet competition for aspiring dance students. Francisco Serrano, 17, whose parents are Cuban natives who defected in 1993, won a gold medal in his division. Serrano was the first American to compete in the history of the competition.
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Home to HavanaAriel Serrano congratulates his son, Francisco, who won a gold medal in an international ballet competition in Havana. Serrano, who was born in Cuba and trained as a dancer there, recently returned to the island with his family and several dance students.
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Home to HavanaAriel Serrano celebrates with his son, Francisco, outside Havana’s Teatro Nacional, where Francisco won a gold medal in an international ballet competition. Serrano, who trained at the Cuban National Ballet School and defected to the U.S. in 1993, was overjoyed with the enthusiastic reception of his son’s dancing among his former ballet instructors. Francisco was the first American to compete in the history of the competition.
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