By Natalie J. Maniscalco & Photos by Chasi Annexy
“Dance is our world. It’s the first thing we maintain to stay together. We may not be brothers through blood, but dance is what makes us brothers,” says Iccel Brito Salas, an incredibly talented 18 year old dancer of Raices Profundas, one of Cuba’s most prolific folkloric dance companies, and the hinge that holds his trio of friends together.
To see them at a glance, you’d think they’re just a bunch of trendy-looking street kids. Fashionably identical with vibrant bandanas wrapped around their afro-locks, chic clothes, flashy sunglasses, and trendy cell phones. What they share immensely is the passion for dance and a tremendous desire to show the world their unique style, a style developed within a country of limited resources, opportunities, and access to media and technologies like youtube, MTV, So You Think You Can Dance? and American Idol. “Somos cubanos [We are Cuban], but we want to share our dance with the rest of the world,” says 19year old Jol Dowblan, known as Douglas.
Their bodies, muscular and trim by nature are in constant motion, always tapping to the lyrics of the music drumming in their minds. Their style, a fusion of Cuban salsa, timba, Puerto Rican salsa, Afro-Cuban and Reggaeton, instinctively learned, yet trained by some of the greatest dancers in Cuba today. Each of the boys, Iccel Brito Salas 18, Andy Gonzalo Varona 21, and Jol Dowblan (Douglas) 19, studied at Narciso Medina School in Havana, while dancing for almost 16 years. Although they have had to study the core curriculum of Cuba’s general education system, they have always maintained a consistent force in their approach and study of dance. For over a year and half they have been apprentice dancers with Raices Profundas, a dance group founded in 1975 by the legendary Juan de Dios Ramos, who is still director today and considered to be one of Cuba’s most prominent folkloric dancers. The company has a total of 55 members including dancers, singers, drummers and musicians who have travelled globally performing exquisite ensembles of the Afro-Cuban art of Yoruba traditions. “We want to improve in every way possible so that we can dance for everyone,” says Douglas. Each of the boys will have to work diligently to become part of the leading dancers and until now have only traveled within Cuba to perform.
Andy, the oldest of the three, stands tall with his red-orange hair puffed high. Outgoing and observant, he maintains his identity to his dance. “It’s my life, my art, my world. When I have a problem, it’s a problem for the moment and then I remember my dance and it goes away,” he says. “It’s a way to show and represent my feelings of the way I think about the world and what it means to me.”
Iccel, often the leader of the pack, who is constantly trying new techniques and styles of dance, thinks big despite his limitations. “I want to one day be able to help others to dance, to learn and to create. Maybe one day, we’d have a school here and be able to teach and show everyone what we do,” he continues. “Always dance and show the world your talent and how you feel about your life. If it is what you want to do, then never stop doing it.”
Scroll down to view more photos of The Boys of Cuba photographed in Havana, Cuba by Chasi Annexy
For more information about:
Marazul’s Dance & Music Research Trip to Cuba
Program Consultants: MetaMovements