The best of cuban salsa dance to be featured in Havanas Revolution Square
By: Marianela Martin Gonzalez
They all look the same dancing. They know the camera is ready to snap the perfect shot as they make their most florid effort. Franklyn, our photographer, warned them with his deep voice that time was running. He knows the young men and women would start playing around at the least opportunity - and that they have enough adrenaline to rehearse all night.
"Dancing for them is more than competing. Its a synonym for fun and relaxation. Sometimes I dont know how they manage to make such outstanding performances in competitions. When we tell them that theyre going to make fools of themselves and we remind them of the complicated multi-partnered salsa routines ("ruedas de casino), to which they respond by asking us to trust the many hours of rehearsals and practice theyve done," explains Alexander Fernandez, an art instructor from the Jose Marti Experimental Secondary School.
Yanet Sanchez, director of the school, praises the patience of her instructors and describes them as "blood that pumps the heart." She believes that they have contributed in a special way to the transformation of the schools curricula at this model school.
"These young people "with their songs, plays, dances and other art forms" have completed fulfilled the tasks when it reopened in 2002, in the wake of the 'Battle of the Ideas (a program emphasizing mass, well-rounded education)" she said.
Not everyone dances at the Jose Marti School. Some prefer to be spectators and to support the dancers with their applause.
Kendra William is one of the observers, but she feels herself to be one with the dancers. From time to time she moves to the rhythm of a local Havana groups song "From here to the sky," which was the tune chosen this time.
"This dance expresses that we are sensual and sensitive beings. We display grace with every move. We live with every step we make."
"Other rhythms have tried to steal the scene from casino, but theyve failed. Now, with this Ruedas de Casino dance program "promoted by the Ministry of Culture and art instructors" foreign rhythms wont stand a chance," Kendra said.
"This art form, that makes people happier and more confident, needed to be promoted. Luckily, our larger-than-life president (Fidel Castro) had the idea of creating a school to train art instructors and make Cuban culture a part of the learning process, " said Mara Olive, who is a teacher at the Experimental Secondary School in Old Havana. Her experience as a teachers covers 44 years of educating and exploring the world of teenagers.
"There is no place for unproductive time, since we have of art appreciation and creation workshops given by art instructors. Some of these are young people who didnt get outstanding grades in school, but were moved by the arts, dancing, theatre and music. They found an outlet for their talents to be recognized," Olive added.
"This brings gratification and benefits the personality of adolescents, who otherwise might retrogress if they cant find positive opportunities to express themselves."
Mara is no longer only a teacher of physical formulas and theorems; but a comprehensive generalist teacher who can teach a range of subjects. She regrets not having identified these possibilities herself much earlier.
She adds to this mission visits to the homes of her students so as to learn how their relationships are and whether they lack motivation in their lives or not.
This is why she applauds the development of aesthetic tastes through artistic appreciation and creation at her school, located in one of the more roughest areas of the capital.
EMISSARIES OF AUTHENTICITY
"The Ruedas de Casino dancing more than a trend," says theatre teaches Alexander, adding "it is winning the youth their own place and space - a sphere threatened by the pseudo-culture and an overdose of foreign rhythms. Generally they select ballad music and extravagant movements that show off the elegance of youths on the dance floor.
Hours earlier, the students/amateur performers at this center had traveled to the Bejucal municipality, in a neighbouring province, where they performed in an activity organized by comprehensive general teachers at boarding schools in the countryside.
"We still have the dust of the road on us. Anyone would think wed be exhausted, but thats not the case. When we dance, we fill ourselves with enthusiasm; we can do many things that demand strong will. Actually, we become relaxed with such euphoria, and thats the exact word," says Alexander Fernandez.
Source: Juventud Rebelde