Cuban Ballet Dancers

Perhaps the highlight of the first Havana Imagined photography tour I lead for Espiritu Travel was our afternoon at capturing images of Cuban ballet dancers at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.

Over the next two months I’ll post up collections of captures from our time in Havana. I’ll try to do one a week. Over the course of the 8-day tour we visited the national ballet, art workshops, a famous boxing gym and numerous locations around Cuba’s intense capital city. Sign up for email notifications at the bottom of this page if you’d like to know each time I publish a new collection of images.

Cuban Ballet Dancers

The world-renown Ballet Nacional de Cuba is located in the recently renovated Alicia Alonso Great Theatre of Havana. While a bright and ornate standout situated right in the center of Havana, the inside of the school rather stark and bare, guarded by a smiling and chatty 70-something year old security man who watched the street from the shade of the doorway.

The school was founded in 1948 by the country’s prima ballerina assoluta, Alicia Alonso and her husband Fernando after returning from years in the United States.  After the revolution the school for Cuban ballet dancers fell under control of the state and became a source of national pride. The Alonsos had supported the revolution and with Castro committed to make the arts, sports and healthcare available to the whole Cuban population the school took on a special place in Cuban society. It maintains that position and with big but slow changes underway in Cuba the school is looking to the future.

cuban ballet dancers

Indeed, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba is one of the pre-eminent ballet schools in the world and supplies dancers to companies from the US to Europe to Asia. Many of these dancers of have won awards and distinctions in contests around the world. But it doesn’t sound like it is an easy place to be. In fact, it has been described as “hell” by some students.  The school follows the Soviet classical system and only graduates about 40 dancers a year.

Cuban Ballet Dancers

I had two cameras going while at the ballet. I wanted to capture both clear portraits of the Cuban ballet dancers as well as their movements. For these dreamy movement shots, I slowed my shutter speed to ¼ second and set my aperture between 14 and 20. ISO 200.

We will be heading back to Havana in April 2018 for the next Havana Imagined Photography Tour …. and believe me that photographing Cuban ballet dancers will be top of the list!

Cuban Ballet Dancers

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Cuban ballet dancers

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Cuban Ballet Dancers

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Cuban Ballet Dancers

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Cuban Ballet Dancers

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Cuban Ballet Dancers




  1. Comment by Suze

    Suze Reply November 21, 2017 at 11:53 am

    I’m in awe…..these are spectacular.makes me want to find a moving scenario & give it a try. You r an inspiration

  2. Comment by Margit

    Margit Reply November 21, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Very unusual and unique capturing of the dance. Love your story accompanying the images

  3. Comment by Karen Hoppes

    Karen Hoppes Reply November 22, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I love the story. The photographery is interesting. I will need to to review it a few times to see if I like it.

  4. Comment by Carlos Enrique González

    Carlos Enrique González Reply November 22, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I just adored workig with this group, we had amazing experiencies together and we learned a lot I would say.
    Can;t wait to have them all back, and you El Loco O’Donnell.
    Carlos Enrique González. Espíritu Travel Manager in Cuba.

  5. Comment by June

    June Reply November 23, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Most excellent! For me, your technique was a perfect way to “capture” ballet and its movement.

  6. Comment by Luis

    Luis Reply October 4, 2018 at 2:16 am

    Genial el artículo y sobre todo las fotografías, es dificil entrar en estos ensayos y poder captar la belleza de los bailarines de ballet cubanos, además la opción personal de tomar las fotografías en movimiento me gusta mucho, es una opción artística tan valida como congelar el movimiento.
    Felicidades y gracias por mostrarnos esos rincones ocultos de Cuba.

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