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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Photographing the Ballet Dancers of Cuba キューバのバレエダンサー

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

The Vintage Havana Series/ 1957 is really a dream come true for me. I have long wanted to photograph ballet dancers - there is just something so special about them. And I wanted to do it in a Communist country, or maybe an Eastern European Country to get that look I always had in my mind. So my prime choices were Russia, Cuba, China or Romania....Of course I had little idea where to connect with the ballet dancers anywhere. A friend from Russia found a ballerina for me in Moscow but our schedules didn't really match cos he was overseas most times himself....During my 2019 trip to Havana, I was lucky enough to meet Monica, a ballerina from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Monica had actually arranged to meet another photographer friend of mine to do some street photography so we met up and one thing led to another. She liked my photo ideas so we did a few portrait sessions with Monica and some of her other ballet dancer friends. Monica spoke wonderful English so communication is really not a problem.

The ballet academy in Havana has high standards and churns out only 40 graduates a year. Students for the National Ballet School are handpicked by the Ballet itself and trained from childhood. Ballet dancers are considered celebrities in Cuba and a much respected occupation. Professional Ballet Dancers are paid USD$30 a month, a lowly salary by world standards but on par with the salary of doctors in Havana.

And when I knew I had access to certain beautiful locations, I invited Monica and friends to come to all my photo sessions. The results were breathtaking...the very Cuba/ Havana I wanted to see all this while. Vintage buildings with peeling walls combined with the vibrant youth of my beautiful friends. Just like a scene out of a movie, except that everything is real.

I suppose the first thing that wows the the viewers is the color - this kind of colours - you only get them in classic, so cool and so 1950s...then the mystique and the drama...

All photos done using just natural lighting alone...

Some of my ballet photos form the multi-award winning photo series "1957" - a photo story about my young friends in Havana, their dreams and aspirations...

My only regret this year is not having enough time to visit Havana and now that this pandemic has struck. I must return to Havana soon when everything is more settled, I have many more wild ideas for my ballet dancer friends....

Havana is one of my favourite destinations for photography and private photo sessions/ workshop opportunities with me are available for booking...

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