#CLEvana: “Cuba has changed the way I think about challenge and creativity.”

A collage of three images showing a group outside the Fabrica de Arte Cubano, Malpaso dancers and a sculpture in Fusterlandia, Cuba.

This blog post is part of our #CLEvana series, sharing stories and insights from our Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition partners. In this post, DANCECleveland Executive Director Pam Young reflects on the Creative Fusion cohort learning trip to Cuba earlier this year.  

Cuba: It wasn’t what I expected. Before arriving, thinking about Cuba conjured up images of the revolution and a communist country that would perhaps harbor anti-American sentiments. What I discovered was a tropical island with kind, engaging and passionate people. It is a place frozen in time and a place for which time has not always been kind.

Traveling with our cohort led to so many wonderful discussions and illuminated how the arts have defined place, history and hopes for the future. With so few resources, Cubans have learned to be resourceful and clever, both in their creative process and in their lives. In so many ways it was hard not to marvel at the breadth and scope of the arts in a place where creating art would seem nearly impossible. As someone in our group pointed out, the trajectory of Cuba’s history since the 1950’s falls within a span of our lifetimes, which makes for very personal comparisons on so many levels. 

Visiting both the Fábrica de Arte Cubano and Fusterlandia was remarkable, as these places have become both central hubs of their communities and have defined a sense of place for those living there. The art in the museum was also eye-opening. Even with some level of censorship, many of the works on display were bold expressions of the challenges in Cuba.    

Malpaso dancers model their new Cleveland Indians baseball caps

Malpaso dancers model their new Cleveland Indians baseball caps.

Our group traveled to the Malpaso Dance Company studio to watch an informal showing of a new work co-commissioned by DANCECleveland and the Cleveland Foundation. With viable dance space at a premium and dance floors nearly impossible to acquire, Malpaso rehearses in a Synagogue, when it’s not in use for services. Yet, these remarkable dancers continue to create amazing works of incandescent beauty and imagination. Even performing in everyday dance clothes and without the benefit of stage lighting, the work was inspired. Afterward, it was a treat to have an informal discussion between our group and the dancers about dance in Cuba and much more. It was also great fun to present some gifts from home: Cleveland Indians baseball caps and recordings from the Cleveland Orchestra. We can’t wait for Malpaso to arrive in Cleveland in June so we can show them our city, share their artistry with our community and provide them with a wonderful dance studio so they can continue to create new work.

Cuba has changed the way in which I think about challenges and creativity, but most of all how 90 miles of water between two borders is not very far and yet worlds away.

Stay tuned as our #CLEvana blog series continues! For the latest on Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition, follow #CLEvana and #CLExHAV on social media.