#Cleveland Havana Ballet

5 Apr

Guest Blog by Kate Webb, Verb Ballets Dancer

What do pointe shoes, dirt, and cafecitos have in common? They’re all integral parts of The Cleveland Havana Ballet, which just successfully completed its first edition of international performances in Cuba. The fusion company is comprised of young, passionate artists from Havana-based ProDanza and Cleveland-based Verb Ballets.

After only dancing together for four days, The Cleveland Havana Ballet premiered Yarini, a full-length ballet based on a well-loved Cuban legend, in front of thousands of people. The two-country company followed up four shows of Yarini with three mixed-bill performances featuring repertory highlighting each of the dance troupes’ strengths. Despite the varying styles of the two companies (Verb Ballets is a contemporary ballet company, while ProDanza considers itself strictly classical), it was hard to tell which company the dancers worked for by the end of the packed two-week residency. They wore each other’s ballet skirts, company t-shirts, and began to emulate each other’s dance style. 

verbwithlauraalonso

As a dancer, the exchange was both eye-opening and rewarding. The Verb Ballets company members were amazed by how the Cuban dancers could flourish in spite of countless daily obstacles. To make Cuban tap water drinkable it requires iodine tablets, something that makes even drinking water a commodity. Most of the Cuban dancers would go without water for a full day of rehearsals in the non-air conditioned studios so they wouldn’t have to use up more tablets than absolutely necessary. I have never felt so thankful to have an otherwise mundane plastic water bottle. They managed to perform jaw-dropping balances on pointe shoes that looked so mushy and worn that they didn’t provide an ounce of support. Yet they were able to execute endless turns on uneven, tattered, and dust-covered floors. None of these trying conditions stopped them from dancing with vitality and spirit.

togetherincuba

The non-dancing locals we met also showed us a lot about the ever-vibrant Cuban culture. Complete strangers would strike up conversations on the street and were delighted to converse about dance and art. The government subsidizes tickets to the ballet, just as it does tickets to the baseball game, so dance is something for everyone to engage in. It was surreal to be in a country where it was more likely that a person would understand a reference to Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” over Jeff Bezo’s “Amazon”. 

The Cuban people have built a beautiful island where the classics are revered and the present moment enjoyed to the fullest. With very limited internet access, Cubans understand the profound gratification that comes with slow, meticulous work. They take the time to appreciate attention to detail, and translate that appreciation to artists. Although we toured to a country with limited resources, every person with whom we interacted with gave us unending admiration. I think it is safe to say that half of my heart remains in Havana!

Read more about our adventures in Cuba, at www.verbballets.org/cubatour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: