My journey to Cuba was a moment that molded my being and changed me for the rest of my life. After moving to NYC and feeling bogged down by the pressure and daily sacrifice necessary to survive as an artist, Cuba - a place full of life, culture, art, dedication, and joy - reminded me that being an artist is about living. It re-inspired me to just dance, because it is my love, and love guides all.
This journey would not have been such a profound experience, had it not been for Suki John's guidance. Over the years, Suki has built strong friendships with the most influential artists in Cuba, and gained their respect as a friend, colleague, artist, and historian. Her ability to introduce and welcome me into this community brought me invaluable opportunities and growth.
I was able to experience the most exciting parts of Cuba, meet the most innovative entrepreneurs, and be apart of instrumental conversations. Suki's friendships in Cuba opened doors for me that I would never have experienced on my own, including taking class with the National Modern company, watching the National Ballet rehearse, and performing at Danzandos, a national Cuban duet festival.
Suki guided me through Cuba, ensuring that I felt safe, and introducing me to people that I would have never otherwise had the opportunity to meet. It was a profound experience in my life and I am anxiously waiting to travel with her again someday!
"I go to dance shows all the time and I've never seen anything so wonderful."
Literary Havana tour participant
My Cam Experience
From the Choreographer's Desk...
Why dance in Cuba?
Although I have danced in New York for most of my career, it was in Cuba that I found my artistic home. I lived in the small apartment of a dancing family, playing with their kids, sharing their rationed rice and beans, and becoming challenged and enchanted every day by their brilliant movement and music.
They were hungry for my ideas and I was hungry for theirs, so we found many opportunities to collaborate over the years, despite a lack of working phone lines, broadband, or diplomatic ties. I would teach and type and waitress for months in the U.S. so I could visit Cuba and dance until the money ran out.
My dancing evolved, as did my worldview. Now that everything is shifting between Cuba and the U.S., I have a chance to share that intoxicating blend of dance and music that has ignited me for 30 years.
I have become a cultural ambassador, with a unique ability to bring a positive image of the U.S. to each group of young artists I encounter in Cuba.
These artists are beyond welcoming and enthusiastic; each time we get in the studio we break down barriers that years of political negotiations could never touch. Dancing together requires a give-and-take that our world leaders should practice!
Every dancer, every audience member, comes away from these exchanges with a new sense of possibility. Havana Love Letters speaks to our shared future in the universal languages of love, music, and dance.
"Thanks to Suki we got in to watch company class and rehearsal at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. The highlight was seeing Alicia Alonso rehearse Giselle."
- Webster Dean, Margo Dean School of Ballet
As told by Kristen Gajdica,
a Modern Dance Professional Living in New York City
Pictured below - Kristen (solid blue tank) next to Dr. Suki John (magenta tank)