US – Cuba Relations: A Little Context


In a time of crisis, the peoples of the world must rush to get to know each other. – José Martí, Cuban national hero

Sometimes, the imaginable is so deeply entrenched and taken for granted that when the unimaginable finally does occur, it almost seemed inevitable.

A week before Christmas in 2014, two sovereign presidents, each in televised fanfare from their respective national capitals, announced a normalization of relations between the US and Cuba—marking the beginning of the end of a 54-year increasingly-needless frost. This process, stretching from the 2014 holiday season until July 20, 2015, has come to be called “The Cuban Thaw”, and was brokered in part by Pope Francis in secret talks held at The Vatican and in Canada.

A deviation from the Cold War status quo was largely in the imaginative realm, suddenly, the unimaginable had become reality through small and large gestures: Prisoners were exchanged; Vacation plans were altered from Mexico to the Havana; Castro and Obama did The Wave together at an exhibition baseball game; Cuban women were soon seen strolling the Malecón in American flag print yoga pants; Someone at the US State Department was directed to cross Cuba off that pesky State Sponsors of Terrorism List and mostly cheers (and a few jeers) rang out across the world—the Cold War vestige seemed to succumb under its own tiresome weight, finally, becoming the anachronism many knew it was.
The current US President, however, speaking in the usual conditional vagaries, has suggested that he would roll back this normalization if the two countries didn’t “have a real agreement.” What that could mean remains unclear. But lest we lose hope, let us consider one truth concerning imagination and inevitability in this isolated case: long before the threat to our two countries’ fledgling reacquaintance, artists had already been reaching across the narrow stretch of Caribbean Sea, sowing the seeds of a lasting friendship that we now get to see come to fruition.


Osnel Delgado

Osnel Delgado

One of the students of Cuba’s National School of Dance, the then-25-year-old Osnel Delgado, went on to found the Malpaso Dance Troupe with fellow choreographer, Fernando Saéz (the latter was interviewed by CAN Journal for the Spring 2017 issue, which can be found here). In 2011, Delgado had already made his US debut at The Joyce Theater in New York after winning a series of awards in his home country; he returned to The Joyce in 2014 with renowned American choreographer Ronald K. Brown—this time, bringing his then-fledgling Malpaso Dance Troupe along with him. Since Malpaso’s first US visit in 2014, they have appeared three times at The Joyce, have been praised and profiled in the New York Times, and have performed all around the East Coast, and have given workshops at US universities. This is one partnership that came into existence despite the bigger macrocosmic challenges.

Fernando Saez

Fernando Saez

And those partnerships continue to flourish. Now, DanceCleveland, in collaboration with The Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion, will host the renowned Cuban dance troupe Malpaso in early summer of 2017. The Malpaso troupe will conduct workshops at the Cleveland State University Dance Intensive, as well as share studio time with local dancers to create new work together.

Malpaso Dance Co. will be in Cleveland from May 30 – June 10, 2017.

Malpaso will perform at the Ohio Theatre in Playhouse Square Friday, June 2 at 7:30PM, and Saturday, June 3 at 7:30PM. The performances are free, but require tickets that will be available through the Playhouse Square box office on May 15.

More information on the Malpaso Dance Company can be found at, and more information about DanceCleveland can be found at

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.