It is said that every Cuban is born to dance. It is in their blood. Cuba wouldn’t be the delightful island that it is without the rhythm of salsa or the pulsating beat of an Afro-Cuban rumba. Cuba Unplugged: Dance in Havana offers a rare opportunity to engage with the Cuban people and experience the complex and exhilarating world of traditional and contemporary dance in the largest island of the Caribbean.
Cuba is an intoxicating and rhythmic paradise. Everything from sensual salsa to classical ballet, Cuban dance is a fertile mixture of African and European influences. Havana has innumerable contemporary and traditional dance companies as well as classical ballet schools that have survived the political and economic changes of this small and resilient island. Monumental colonial buildings open their doors every day to thousands of Cuban children, whose primary focus is dance, whether it be rumba, salsa, guaguanco, classical ballet, contemporary dance or the exotic flamenco.
Join photographers Leysis Quesada and Jennifer Spelman on an unforgettable journey through song, music, and authentic Cuban dance as we meet and photograph dancers of each disciple.
This Cuba Unplugged program is open to amateur, advanced amateur and professional photographers who have traveled to Cuba with Santa Fe Workshops (SFW), with another group, or on their own. Enrollment is limited to six participants.
Participants should be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a program to learn how to use your gear or editing software. Participants should be in very good health with good stamina and mobility, as long days are spent exploring—this means walking, sometimes for two to three hours at a time, occasionally up steep stairs, steep hills, and along uneven terrain.
Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer and member of the Jibaro Photos Collective. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.
Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.
A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co- instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Romania, India, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.
A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »
While Leysis was born in the city of Cienfuegos, her family soon settled in a town called Amarillas, in the Cuban province of Matanzas, where later she would base an important part of her photography work.
Leysis studied English with the desire to become a teacher and worked as a professor for three years in a junior high school in Havana. When the Maine Photographic Workshops came to Havana in 1999, she was no longer teaching and used to visit the Fototeca voften with her cousin Lazaro Miranda, who was a well-known photographer.
Leysis began seriously taking photos in January 2000. At the beginning she was inspired by her cousin Lazaro’s work of beautiful interiors. Later she studied the master photographers and loved Sebastian Salgado and Sally Mann. Leysis has always been drawn to the life of the “campesinos” (people from the countryside) in Cuba, and much of her work is inspired by their way of life, how they live, inside their homes, their daily lives. Leysis has two beautiful daughters they are the most important motivation for her images. Her work revolves around her family, friends, and home, and now is a reflection of her own daily life.
Leysis is a founding member of Jíbaro Photos and has exhibited work extensively internationally. During the pandemic, Leysis created a project in her neighborhood, Los Sitios, that was supported by the Magnum Foundation. She was commissioned by the Annenburg Space for Photography in 2017 and her work is included in collections in the International Center for Photography (ICP) and the Getty Museum.
Leysis has collaborated as an instructor and an assistant with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in Havana since 2010.