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Cuba: "Proyecto Espejo" teaches children traditional Latin dance styles

Students from the Espejo dance project prepare to perform at the Tropicana performance hall in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023.   -  
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Ramon Espinosa/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved


Mambo, rumba, salsa, cha, cha, cha and many more Latin dance styles have given rhythm to Cuban culture for decades. But as new dance trends become popular on the island, traditional styles are slowly disappearing.

The famous Tropicana cabaret is one of the last remnants of pre-revolution Havana.

"Tropicana has become universal because it represents the music and the popular dances of Cuba, the Cuban identity. Every night, we fight tooth and nail to defend and safeguard our culture," says Juan Armando Pérez, artistic director of Tropicana.

In an effort to preserve the culture, parents are signing their kids up to dance classes.

Three times a week, classes take place in the outskirts of Havana, far from the established dance school in the heart of the capital, teaching them to dance flamenco, for technique, alongside traditional Cuban dance styles.

"This dance classes must be the water we drink every day, the water that quenches our thirst, so coming here (to the project) is the space where we forget what is happening outside our doors. Here we aim to say I feel happy, here everything is resolved," shares dance teacher Karelys Noa of Proyecto Espejo.

Founded three years ago, Proyecto Espejo ('Mirror Project' in English) teaches girls how to perform Cuban dances on stage from the age of four.

And although every child is welcome regardless of gender, no boys are part of this season's cohort of 30 students.

"I do believe that this project (Espejo) is a seedbed for my daughter's future because it is developing all the skills, she needs to become a future world-class dancer," says Maylen Ricardo, mother of dance student Daylen.

One of the most deep-rooted traditions of Cuba is its music and associated dances, a mixture of African, Spanish and Chinese heritage.

In the current economic crisis, as many Cubans struggle to eat, many still believe that the money spent on dance classes is worth it as it's part of the national identity to sing and dance.

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