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Ballet couple flee Cuba, seek better life in U.S.

Two more dancers from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba have defected. Octavio Martin, a principal dancer, and his wife, Yahima Franco, who ranked slightly above the corps de ballet, left after the company's final performance at a festival in Villahermosa, Mexico, on Oct. 30.

"I want to begin a new chapter in my career," Martin said by telephone from Miami, where he and Franco, who uses the stage name Vanessa Franco, are staying with his brothers. Martin, 31, and Franco, 25, took a bus from Villahermosa to Matamoros, where they crossed the border to the United States, then took a 38-hour bus ride to Miami.

He said he had asked Alicia Alonso, the company's general director, for permission to dance abroad permanently, but she said no. Both dancers have applied for asylum and plan to audition for ballet companies in the United States.

The Juilliard School announced that Michael Kahn, the Richard Rodgers Director of its Drama Division since 1992, would step down at the end of the academic year. Kahn will continue to teach his third-year acting class and will maintain his full-time position as artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington.