Ballroom dancing, as it is internationally known, has come to Havana and according to its organizers is here to stay.
The experience of holding an international ballroom dancing event on Cuban soil to the accompaniment of live music from the legendary orchestra Aragon was wonderful. For two nights, Cuba's historic National Hotel dressed up to serve as the stage for dancers from Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Haiti, Honduras, Bulgaria, UK, Italy and the United States with representation from some of Cuba's most prominent professional dance companies such as Rakatan, Dance Combinatorics, Banrarra and Habana Compas, in their respective styles and categories.
This first International Ballroom Dancing Competition in Cuba was organized and directed by Cuban dancer, teacher and choreographer Ana Llorente, a graduate of the National School of Arts (ENA) and the only Cuban who holds a world title in Ballroom Dancing.
The event was coordinated by the National Council of Performing Arts, with the objective for it to be held annually in Havana.
Havana was chosen as the location with the additional hope that in the near future Cuban dancers will be able to represent their country at this event or other international competitions, displaying the authenticity and flair that defines Cuban artists and infusing ballroom dancing with a taste of the Caribbean. This is precisely what Ana Llorente has brought to the discipline, combining technical skill with this passion and the natural movements Cubans possess.
The competition was held over two days with both cumulative and eliminatory elements and a nightly show focused on the progress and demonstrations of the competition.
Besides Ana Llorente the event was also organized by Michael Chapman, a renowned dancer who was once her dance partner. Both conquered the world representing Cuba and the US respectively, in world championships across Europe, Canada, Asia and the United States.
Ballroom dancing is a discipline of dance known worldwide, very popular in Europe and Asia, that has spread to Latin America. Dancesport, as it is also
known, is a type of high impact ballroom dancing popular on film and television. It is danced in couples and the dancers move in a circle rotating in one direction to avoid colliding into each other.
With its origins in 16th century England and styles such as the minuet, polka, polonaise and waltz among others, ballroom dancing merged with Hispanic dances in Latin countries such as Cuba, Brazil, Argentina and Spain, bringing Europe to Latin America. Chachachá, bolero, samba, paso doble and the tango were added to the discipline over the 18th and 19th centuries.
Michael Chapman is a renowned figure in the world of international competitive ballroom dancing. He devoted his career as a ballroom dancer to competing in the category called 'Exhibition', 'Showdance' or 'Cabaret,' which is like saying 'adagio in two'. He thereby became the world and national champion in the US, Canada and the Netherlands.
After he ended his career as a dancer he decided to start developing national and international ballroom dancing competitions and created his company. Today he works with dancers and choreographers from all over the world and is the promoter of three major national US competitions.
Ana Llorente began her career in Havana, Cuba, where she graduated from the National School of Arts (ENA) in Modern Dance and Folklore. During the last year of her career, she received the National Prize from Cuba's National Union of Writers and Artists as best choreographer and dancer. She was selected by the Ministry of Culture for a choreography scholarship at Wesleyan University in Connecticut USA.
After arriving in the United States she entered the world of international ballroom dancing and in less than six months became the only Cuban in the world, an ENA graduate, to represent this Caribbean country and win world championships.