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“The spirit of the dance is inseparable from the human condition.”

—Alejo Carpentier

Dance is like another language in Cuba, through which people express themselves. Cubans never miss an opportunity to dance. It is part of their being, and an inherent escape from the drudgery of everyday life into a world inspired by music and movement.

Cuban ballet has a special kind of energy – almost mystique – that is recognized worldwide. The soul of the dance, of whatever style, is expressed through a natural ability coupled with learned technique. Passion for the art form, temperament from Moorish roots, flexibility and rhythm from the Afro-Caribbean heritage and an ability to absorb dance styles from English, French and Russian traditions have all come together to make Cuban ballet unique. The passion to jump higher, spin faster, float on air, leads them to a prowess which is inspirational.

Nearly three decades ago, I was invited by Dance Magazine to photograph the International Ballet Festival of Havana and Alicia Alonso, prima ballerina assoluta and director of the Cuban National Ballet. I returned many times to capture the beauty and the sweat of the dancers at work; and the deep devotion of Cubans to the iconic Alonso, who performed well into her seventies.

Why a documentary?

I am currently seeking backers for fundraising to complete my film Cuban Ballet: Art Triumphant! (working title). Please consider supporting this project by making a donation.

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As a photojournalist I fell in love with the stimulating vibrancy and rhythm of the Cuban people and the colorful surroundings. Looking beyond the poverty, dilapidation and restriction everywhere, I saw the Cuban character – enthusiastic and passionate in whatever they do, whether restoring ancient cars, or dancing. Survivors with panache!

I have made many friends there, in and out of the ballet world. The dancers have a passion for their art that carries them through. Their enthusiasm and dedication is infectious and I have long wanted to do a documentary about the spirit of the dance there, and to bring attention and interest to the dance companies and dancers in Cuba.

Curtain call, featuring Alicia Alonso

Meet Our Team

Nan Melville

Nan Melville

Producer, Director & Cinematographer

Roberto Chile


Raúl Santos

Writer & Editor

Why me and my team?

I have photographed and filmed dance in many forms for many years for publications like The New York Times and institutions like Lincoln Center. My 2010 film NRITYAGRAM: For the Love of Dance – on a classical Indian Ensemble in India – has been in 28 festivals and won 6 awards and some nominations. It was shown in 2016 as part of the Festival Internacional de Ballet de la Habana.

In my long association with Cuban ballet I have worked with a supportive and expert team in Cuba, led by Roberto Chile. I have recently been fortunate enough to add Raul Santos to the project. See Team to learn more about us.

I bring a unique combination of professional experience, personal involvement – and unprecedented access to the major players at the heart of the company and in the Cuban ballet scene for nearly thirty years. I feel an intense connection with Cuba and have a keen understanding of the people. I aspire to make a documentary that is deeply engaging and cinematic, and worthy of the Cuban people.

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