HAVANA (Reuters) - Seven members of the National Ballet of Cuba, one of the communist-led country's proudest and most prestigious institutions, defected last month while the troupe toured Mexico, a spokesman for the ballet said on Wednesday.

"Yes, it's true, they stayed in Mexico, the seven, they defected, it's a reality," said the spokesman, who asked not to be identified.

According to Miami-based website www.cafefuerte.com, six of the dancers crossed into the United States from Mexico and are now in Miami, center of the U.S. Cuban exile community, while one remained in Mexico.

It identified the dancers as two men and five women between the ages of 20 and 24.

The ballet spokesman could not confirm the names or give further details about the defections.

The Cuban company, known for its adherence to a classical style of ballet and for producing many world-class dancers, regularly makes international tours.

Over the years, many of its dancers have defected and joined other companies abroad.

Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso founded the company in 1948 and, at the age of 91, despite being nearly blind, continues as its artistic director.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Will Dunham)




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