In 2001, artists Manuel Diaz Baldrich and Ernesto Quirch Paz began offering free art classes in their depressed Lawton neighborhood of Havana, Cuba. The project quickly evolved into comprehensive community revitalization, fostering civic participation, social cohesion, and investment in place and community. Today, Lawton rings with creative, collaborative energy, the entire neighborhood a rambling art installation. The visual arts are complemented by performing arts; and everything comes together with a joyous street party every six weeks, with music, dance,food and guest artists from around Cuba and abroad.
In the first decade, workshops were held in the streets or a neighborhood park, using the sides of buildings as canvas and found objects to create sculpture. In 2011 an abandoned water tank was transformed into a workshop, performance space and community center.
The Convento Nuestra Senora de Belen in Havana’s Old City is a social services center focusing on programs for senior citizens and disabled children. The center is housed in a restored 18th century Jesuit convent. The center offers a few slots for permanent residents, but on a daily basis some 300-400 area seniors come to enjoy arts and crafts, music and community so as not to be at home alone while their families work.
Guided tours are available for visitors and it’s a treat to mingle with the day-residents, who are happy to show off their craft projects and sometimes welcome visitors with a song.
Can you name that county?
See below for answers.
Centro de Promoción de la Danza, better known as Pro Danza, is a world-renown center for the study and performance of dance located in Havana, Cuba. Since its founding in 1988, the center has been under the direction of revered ballet dancer and teacher Laura Alonso, the daughter of famous Cuban ballet dancers Alicia and Fernando Alonso.
The school’s reputation draws professional dancers and dance teachers from around the world to its workshops, but, above all, the center is about sharing a love of dance and enthusiasts of all ages and abilities are welcomed, whether or not they aspire to a career in dance. Training is based on the methodology and technique of the Cuban School of Ballet, which began in the 1930s as a distinctive and highly respected approach derived from older European and American methods. Pro Danza consistently produces dancers for major companies around the world.
Pro Danza is not only about ballet, but nurtures dance of all sorts and includes training and performance companies in folkloric dance, modern dance, jazz and hiphop. Pro Danza companies perform around the globe but, as a big part of the center’s mission is to foster the love of dance in the Cuban people, performances are staged regularly across the island.
For interested Ya’lla travelers to Cuba, we can arrange a visit to Pro Danza to meet some of the dancers and take in a performance.