Erika’s favorites: Meeting dancers and athletes in Havana

BUT FIRST, PLAY BALL. NO SHOES REQUIRED. JUST BALL AND BAT. IN HAVANA, CUBA’ NATIONAL SPORT IS ON DISPLAY IN THIS CASUAL PICKUP GAME. IN CUBA, BASEBALL EQUALS NATIONAL PRIDE.- THE ISLAND NATION LONG DOMINATED PL AFTER FIDEL CASTRO BAND PROFESSIONAL ATHLETICS IN 1961. CASTRO USED SPORTS AS A POLITICAL TOOL, EQUATING CUBAN STRENGTH ON THE FIELD AND IN THE RING WITH THE STRING OF SOSUA LIST — THE STRING OF SOCIALIST IDEALS. IN OLD HAVANA TUCKED BETWEEN WEATHERED BUILDINGS IS THIS BOXING GYM. BUILT IN 1930 IN AN UPRISING AGAINST THEN DICTATOR MACHADO. THIS IS WHERE SOME OF CUBA’S ELITE BOXERS HAVE TRAINED FOR DECADES. LIKE THEIR BALLPLAYERS, AMATEUR BOXERS ARE SOME OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD. — CUBAN AMATEUR BOXERS ARE SOME OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD. ALL AGES ARE WELCOME AND EVEN THIS AMERICAN JOURNALIST. SINCE FIGHTERS HERE CANNOT GO PROFESSIONAL, THEY ARE NOT COMPETING FOR A PAYDAY, BUT FOR THEIR COUNTRY. >> [SPEAKING SPANISH] ERIK WILSON, BOXER AND COACH, TALKS ABOUT SACRIFICES REQUIRED, LIKE BEING AWAY FROM FAMILY. HE ALSO TALKS ABOUT THE HONOR OF A VICTORY. >> [SPEAKING SPANISH] [LAUGHTER] ERIKA: THE BOXING PROGRAM IN CUBA IS DEMANDING PROMISING ATHLETES ARE IDENTIFIED AT A YOUNG AGE. THE SPORT HERE IS HIGHLY TECHNICAL. WITH THREADBARE EQUIPMENT AND TIRED FACILITIES. TECHNIQUE, NOT SO GOOD. COMPLIMENTS ON FORM DO NOT COME EASY. UNO, DOS. [LAUGHTER] >> MAYBE. ERIKA: BUT HIS SMILE DOES. [LAUGHTER] ♪ IT IS OFTEN SAID BOXING IS AS MUCH OF A DANCE AS IT IS A FIGHT. AND JUST AS ITS ATHLETES ARE REVERED, SORE CUBA’S DANCERS — SO ARE CUBA’S DANCERS. >> IT IS PART OF THE LANGUAGE OF THE CUBANS. WHEN THEY TALK THROUGH PHYSICAL LANGUAGE AND THROUGH THE RHYTHM. ERIKA: DELGADO IS THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE STANCE COMPANY UNIQUE IN CUBA BECAUSE IT IS INDEPENDENT. HE GREW UP IN A DANCE FAMILY, STUDIED AT THE STATE-RUN NATIONAL DANCE SCHOOL, AND GRADUATED A PROFESSIONAL DANCER. IT IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD. I KNOW MANY DANCERS THAT NEED TO DO OTHER THINGS IN ORDER TO SURVIVE. BUT IN CUBA, BEING A DANCER IS LIKE A CAREER. CUBAN DANCERS, THEY ONLY DANCE. ERIKA: FOR EIGHT YEARS, HE DANCED WITH THE NATIONAL MODERN DANCE COMPANY IN CUBA. PEOPLE TOLD HIM IT WAS A MISSTEP, OR MAL PASO, WHEN HE DECIDED TO LEAVE AND PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF CONTEMPORARY CHOREOGRAPHY. SUPPORTED BY THE JOYCE THEATER IN NEW YORK CITY, THIS IS NOW ONE OF THE MOST SOUGHT-AFTER CUBAN DANCE COMPANIES, WITH A GROWING INTERNATIONAL PROFILE. THEIR TOUR LOCATIONS INCLUDE, YES, BOSTON. >> WHEN WE GO BACK TO A CITY WE ALREADY KNOW, WE FEEL LIKE A FAMILY IN SOME WAY. WE HAVE A STRONG GROUP OF COLLABORATORS ALSO IN BOSTON. ERIKA: DELL GOTTO REACHES — DELGADO REACHES BACK TO TRADITIONAL DANCE. HE DESCRIBES THE EVOLUTION OF DANCE IN CUBA, STARTING WITH COUPLE’S DANCES. >> THE FIRST THING THAT I KNOW THAT WAS A TRADITIONAL DAN WAS A WALK WITH A PARTNER, THE MEN TAKE THE WOMAN IN THIS POSITION, THEN MOVE SIDE, ONE, SIDE, ONE, AND THEN THE SONG THAT CAME AFTER WAS MORE LIKE FINDING THE TEMPLE MORE STRONG IN THE LEGS. ♪ ERIK AFRO-CUBAN DANCE IS ANO INSPIRATION. PASS DOWN — IS ANOTHER INSPIRATION. PASSED DOWN FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION WITH CUBAN INFLUENCES. >> WE’RE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR NEW COLLABORATIONS FOR THE ABILITY TO TRANSFORM OUR REALITY. ERIKA: THE GROWTH OF PERHAPS AN EVOLUTION OF CUBA ITSELF. MALPASO WAS CUBA’S FIRST INDEPENDENT DANCE COMPANY. THE COMPANY WAS SET TO TRAVEL TO MASSACHUSETTS THIS YEAR HOWEVER DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, THEIR SPRING U.S. TOUR WAS CANCELED. MEMBERS ARE STAYING SAFE AT HOME

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Erika’s favorites: Meeting dancers and athletes in Havana

Erika Tarantal says she is fortunate to have traveled to Cuba when she did: January 2020, before the pandemic hit. Tonight, she is reminiscing about her trip to the Caribbean island; learning to roll a cigar and partaking in one of Cuba’s favorite pastimes: dance. Also in 2020 Erika spent time with folks making the best of a challenging year.

Erika Tarantal says she is fortunate to have traveled to Cuba when she did: January 2020, before the pandemic hit. Tonight, she is reminiscing about her trip to the Caribbean island; learning to roll a cigar and partaking in one of Cuba’s favorite pastimes: dance. Also in 2020 Erika spent time with folks making the best of a challenging year.

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