The scene is El Salon Rosado, and the dancers onstage could
easily be confused for characters in any Hollywood dance-off movie. With colorful bandanas tied across their arms,
the eager group of twenty-somethings has long awaited this moment; it will be the first time the University of Havana's modern dance troupe, WTF, is presenting for the “Crazy Habana” electronic music party.
Carlos Morales Marquez, 26, wicks away the nervous sweat from his brow. “This is just the start of something great,” said Marquez, who created the university-based group in 2009. “At first, we were just performing for our friends around campus, but soon thereafter, our expectations of ourselves rose, and we began auditioning for bigger and better gigs around Havana." The lights dim, and the crowd becomes restless. A smoke machine spits out puffs of white, and the subwoofer begins to thump, as models strut across the rickety stage. The 45-minute show weaves modern dance-- all choreographed and directed by Marquez-- with an interlude of a home-grown fashion show.
dream to present his talent to Cuba and the rest of the world reflects the frustration of Cuban youth today; he yearns to share his passion, yet there is rarely profit in teaching or performing his craft. Currently, Carlos works as a freelance choreographer for the Cuban boy band, SMS. Generally, after an entire evening's performance, he and his group members earn only $5. His irritation with the way the system functions echoes that of many Cuban youth. “I don’t want to leave forever. I just
want to travel—to get to know another place, and see in action all of these dances that I've learned over the years.” Carlos and his best friend,
Alejandro, are on the verge of graduating with their bachelor degrees in
Philosophy, but upon graduation, they will find themselves unemployed and
frustrated. Anxiety about their future consumes the young men, as they are
scrambling, pre-graduation, to figure out how they will support themselves
financially. Even more pressing, however, is how they will manage to
materialize the path they have carved for themselves. Without the most
important resource—money—Carlos can’t imagine he will ever be able to fulfill
his dream of being a dancer. In the meantime, they will take odd jobs and continue to work their way up the ladder of modern dance in Havana, in hopes of being spotted by a talent scout.