Cuba’s commitment to the arts dates back to the early days of the Revolution. The government established a series of national art schools to promote excellence, showcase the best of Cuban talent, and give everyone an opportunity to excel. The National Circus School is among the prestigious national Cuban arts schools but is not as well known as the ballet or music schools. From Circuba (the national circus), to Tropicana (the celebrated cabaret established in 1939), to neighborhood circuses that perform on weekends at the local park, Cubans from all walks of life enjoy and participate in the circus arts. Cuban clowns, acrobats and other performers are consistently performing in the best circuses and successfully competing in the top circus festivals and competitions worldwide.
The national circus school is the traditional path to performing at Circuba. However, in the last several years, a younger generation of artists and instructors has opened up training to students who don’t have access to the top school but are still passionate and interested in learning and performing. All In Cuba is a project led by Marco Antonio Aquilera for Circuba. Working from an old cinema that is currently under renovation in a part of Havana rarely seen by tourists, Aquilera is training young people from distressed neighborhoods alongside professional, classically trained performers. In providing this outlet, he has already encouraged some young performers to return to school and others to finish. They learn valuable skills that they can display once a month at the Big Tent in Playa, Havana, where Circuba performs on the weekends. Aguilera’s campaign for a new approach is almost heretical in a society where
decisions are made from the top down and leaders are resistant to change. This recognition of talent and the opportunity to shine outside of the proscribed routes is a new thing in a country that was until recently ruled by the same people for over 50 years, and is another signal that things are changing rapidly on the island.