Shoes make a difference for Santiago's ballet dancers
by Natasha Hickman
on: Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Candy Costa Aguilera, dancer, teacher and choreographer for Ballet Santiago holds up a worn-out, threadbare pair of ballet shoes: ‘this is what the dancers were using before the donation of shoes came from the Music Fund for Cuba’ she says, before adding with a smile: ‘I still dance very well in these in fact, but the new shoes are better…!’Ballet Santiago is a professional ballet company based just outside Santiago de Cuba. The company consists of around 35 dancers at any one time, at varying levels in their professional development. The Company has undertaken a number of tours abroad, but was severely hampered in its development by lack of adequate costumes and clothing, in particular good quality ballet shoes. The Music Fund for Cuba recently donated 11 boxes of ballet shoes to the company, & photographer Alice Mutasa visited the Company in April 2009 to meet the dancers, Director and choreographers and to see the new shoes in action..... Giselys Campos Gonzalez is 22 years old and has been dancing with Ballet Santiago for four years. From Santiago de Cuba, her ambition is to become the best dancer she can be, and to pass the exam in June this year to become a higher ranked dancer within the company. Giselys explains that before the Music Fund donation of shoes, the company only had a small amount of poor quality shoes, and dancers often had to wait to even get a pair that they could use. ‘Good quality ballet shoes are essential’ she says, ‘and make it much easier to dance and to fulfil our potential as dancers’. The dancers are also in need of new leotards, tights and other dance clothing; I am shown various threadbare examples of what is being used at present, but which does not look as if it will last many more performances…
The company performs a short dance piece for us wearing the donated shoes. Whilst I am unable to make any comparison with the Company’s previous poor quality, worn out shoes, the quality of the dancing is superb. The style of the piece is classical, but full of a lightness, grace and spirit that is quintessentially Cuban.