#CLEvana: “The arts were all around us.”

Prodanza dancers practice in Cuba

This blog post is part of our #CLEvana series, sharing stories and insights from our Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition partners. In this post, Verb Ballets Producing Artist Director Dr. Margaret Carlson shares her thoughts from the Creative Fusion cohort learning trip to Cuba earlier this year. 

From the start, it was evident that the arts were all around us – in the architecture, the galleries, the musicians playing everywhere and dancers busy practicing their art. Also evident was the decay of once beautiful buildings, the charm of still functioning cars from the 1950’s, horse-drawn vehicles and free-range farm animals. Re-imagined spaces were everywhere. 

Photo of Alicia Alonso from her early career.

A photo in the hotel lobby depicted Alicia Alonso in her early career.

Prodanza, Laura Alonso’s school and company, resides in a former aristocrat’s home, now decayed with limited plumbing. The Marley floor used in the studios was so old that it was dissolving, and much needed gaff tape was nowhere to be found. Onstage, beautiful and hardworking professional dancers honed their technique.

The work of Laura Alonso’s mother, Ballet Nacional de Cuba founder Alicia Alonso, to create one of the best ballet training grounds in the world was honored in unexpected places. Our hotel lobby, which showcased Fidel Castro’s legacy, included an old dance photo of Alicia. Next to the Capitol building is the newly refurbished Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, a gorgeous and meticulously renovated space.

Cleveland Artist Dianne McIntyre talks with the leader of the Afro-Cuban troupe at the African Slave Museum in Cuba.

Award-winning Cleveland Artist Dianne McIntyre talks with the leader of the Afro-Cuban troupe at the African Slave Museum in Cuba.

On the way to Matanzas, Cuba, our group stopped at the African Slave Museum, housed in a former fort built by slaves and most recently used as a prison by Castro. There, we were treated to an hour-long program of Afro-Cuban music and dance presented by a company that has spent years researching and preserving these art forms. Again, amidst poverty and scarcity, beauty and art flourished. 

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

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