Lyvan Verdecia and Melissa Fernandez

When Ballet Hispánico’s Lyvan Verdecia was studying at the Cuban National Ballet School as a teenager, Martha Iris Fernandez helped him perfect his turns.

“Male dancers in Cuba are known for their turns and their jumps. For me, jumps always came naturally, but turns—not so much. So Martha would focus on turns and turns and turns, getting me to execute them at a level that made them look effortless. She would emphasize the placement of my spine and make sure I always had a high passé—things that separate the amateur from the professional.”

Martha Iris Fernandez is a classical ballet teacher at the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana.

See Ballet Hispánico tonight and tomorrow at 8 pm at the Apollo Theater in New York City.

Photo by Paula Lobo, courtesy of Ballet Hispánico

Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Havana, Cuba. Thinkstock

Teaching dance in a foreign culture can be eye-opening on many levels, for both young dancers and their teachers. We talked with three American artists about recent projects in Bali, Russia and Cuba. They spoke of the challenges and the joys, and shared helpful tips you won't likely find in travel guidebooks.

Cultural differences can make even simple decisions complicated, says Venetia Stifler of The Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago, who has organized exchanges with China, Russia and Cuba. “You can read about these things, but it doesn't hit home until you travel and experience them for yourself."

And art is a powerful messenger. “As cultures evolve around the world," Stifler says, “dance remains the universal language to bring us together."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox