In June of 2017, Hunter College’s Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program (AGDEP) sent two students to Cuba for a life-changing cultural and educational exchange. Selected for their outstanding artistic ability and contributions to public dance education, Uthman Ebrahim and Sabrina Jaafar Melton, both graduate students in the AGDEP, spent a week in Camaguey, Cuba, performing, teaching, and taking master classes with Arnhold Visiting Artist in Residence Pedro Ruiz, a renowned Cuban-American dancer and choreographer.
Sponsored by The Windows Project – Ruiz’s program to encourage cross-cultural dance opportunities — in collaboration with AGDEP and the Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey, this project enabled Ebrahim and Jaafar Melton to take their already professional abilities to an international level. The scholars, also full time dance teachers in the New York City Department of Education, have demonstrated exceptional skills as artists, educators, and role models. In Cuba, they performed with Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey and also explored the dance world of Camaguey, teaching and taking classes alongside Cuban company members.
“It’s tremendously exciting to know that this successful collaboration between Cuban and American dance artists and educators, can serve as a model for how AGDEP scholars serve as leaders and ambassadors in the artistry, scholarship and education of dance, not only in New York City public schools, but worldwide,” Says Kathleen Isaac, Director of the AGDEP.
Pedro Ruiz, who had a 20 year career as a dancer at Ballet Hispanico before segueing into choreography and returning to his native Cuba, is the first Cuban-American to have created work with a Cuban dance troupe in Cuba. The two Hunter scholars worked with him in his native country as he created a full length performance for the Camaguey company and an original duet for the two of them. Their duet, set to an original score by drummer and composer Dafnis Prieto, was called Taking the Soul for a Walk, and performed as a work in progress from June 2-4 at the Allevaneda Theater in Camageuy, Cuba.
The finished ballet will perform in the United States in the fall of 2017, when the Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey takes the stage at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, and the Arnhold Graduate Dance Education students Sabrina Jaafar Melton and Uthman Ebrahim will have another opportunity to dance with their Cuban colleagues.
In the meantime, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/WU9lQemJ1d0