Dance is central to the cultural life of Cuba, a country of balletomanes and social
dancers, innovators and classicists. For two decades, I’ve been one of very few choreographers from the United States to work with Cuban companies, including the
Ballet Nacional de Cuba and Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. But at this exciting
moment in U.S.–Cuba relations, it’s getting easier—though not easy—to travel between the two countries. Dance is exploding across the island and more dancers and
choreographers are embracing international collaborations. While I was there this
spring, I witnessed a huge upswing in international students, and an electric energy
charging the arts. What can you expect if you make the trip?
Most of Cuba’s major arts academies—including the National School of Art, the
university-level Superior Institute of Art, ProDanza Ballet Academy and the famous
National Ballet School (Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba)—offer intensive workshops for foreigners. As travel restrictions ease, more American dancers are able to
take advantage of these opportunities.
BALLET NACIONAL DE CUBA
Havana’s Gran Teatro was recently renamed the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia
Alonso after BNC’s indomitable founder. However, Señora Alonso’s celebrated,
state-subsidized company is in need of strong leadership to go forward with a vision
as grand as that of the prima ballerina (now 94) who is still at its head. Home of
exquisite classicists and technical wonders, such as the incomparable Viengsay Valdés,
BNC has recently lost several excellent dancers to Carlos Acosta’s new company.
The state of dance in an evolving country
Guide to Cuba
BY SUKI JOHN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY QUINN WHARTON 37
Although Cuba still struggles
with economic challenges, it
remains rich in dance.
The state-funded Danza Contemporánea
de Cuba (here, right and below left) is
increasingly inviting foreign dancemakers.