Culture

Cuban Professional Ballet Dancers Are Paid $30 Per Month, That’s The Same Amount Doctors Are Paid On The Island

There are a lot of beautiful things that come to mind when you think of Cuba. Cuisine, art, history… rum. But few know that the small island in the Caribean is also home to one of the most celebrated arts in the world. As it turns out, when it comes to dancem the Cuban Ballet Company brings pretty much world-class standard to the art of ballet. 

So next time you want to impress a hottie with your worldly knowledge, maybe throw a few of our obscure facts out and watch them swoon over your smarts.

1. It was founded in 1948.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

The official founding date of the Cuban Ballet Company is October 28, 1948. 

2. The official school for the company is the Cuban National Ballet School.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

While the Cuban National Ballet School isn’t technically the Cuban Ballet Company, the two are pretty much intertwined. It means that students from the School can usually take it for granted that once they graduate, they can begin dancing for the Company.

3. The Cuban Ballet Company was founded by a husband and wife duo.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Prima ballerina Alicia Alonso and her husband, Alberto, were the founders for “Ballet Alicia Alonso.” Two years later, the two also established “Alicia Alonso Academy of Ballet.” By 1956, the pair saw their businesses transformed into the Cuban Ballet Company and Cuban National Ballet School, respectively. It’s worth noting that while the two of them founded the Company and School, Alicia Alonso has been the real driving force behind them.

4. Dancers in the company earn $30 a month.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Since it’s a communist regime, Cuban doctors and skilled workers earn the same amount.

5. The National Ballet School provides courses for international students.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

This is a must-know for any of you who want to study ballet professionally. The International Dance Program is directed by Alicia Alonso herself! 

6. The Cuban Ballet Company incorporates Latin American culture into its dance techniques.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Apparently, the Cuban dance form draws from its Ibero-America, Caribbean roots.

7. Unlike a lot of other countries, both the Cuban Ballet Company and the National Ballet School are funded by the state.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial 

And it has been since 1959 when Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.

8. That being said, the Company and School weren’t always so talented.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial 

Despite the fact that the two were regarded as highly artistic and talented cohorts, they struggled for money during their early years. Before 1959, they had to make ends meet without any assistance from the state.

9. Over the years, the Cuban Ballet Company has performed the likes of “Giselle,” “The Swan Lake,” and “Coppélia.”

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

In doing so, the Company both choreographed and performed completely new versions of these classics. Impressive, no?

10. Students for the National Ballet School are handpicked by the Ballet itself.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Talent scouts travel the country searching for new talent, searching for gifted students in over 14 provinces.

11. The School follows strict criteria when it seeks new students.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial 

Gifted students are usually trained from childhood. In order to be eligible, these kids must have good musicality, the right body proportions, and the ability to follow simple steps.

12. The National Ballet School doesn’t just teach dance.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Once students have been accepted into the School, they typically dance from 7 am to 1:30 pm. Afterward, they then learn the French language, piano, how to read music, folklore, and a whole array of different dances.

13. It takes eight years to graduate from the National Ballet School.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial 

So, if you ever get the chance to see the Cuban Ballet Company, know that they’ve worked very hard to get where they are today!

14. The National Ballet School turns out 40 students per year.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Imagine graduating from your school, knowing there are only 39 other students graduating at the same time as you. Wild.

15. The Cuban Ballet Company has created more than 600 works.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

And it’s also performed in more 60 countries worldwide. Having the Cuban Ballet Company on your resume is seen as a huge plus if you’re a ballet dancer, as it’s pretty much considered to be the top echelon of ballet training and professionalism. 

16. On its 50th anniversary, the Ballet and Alicia Alonso were awarded Lazaro Pena Order.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Given to the Alonso by Castro himself, this is the highest civil decoration that is given in Cuba.

17. While the Ballet is highly regarded in Cuba, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its defections.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

The Cuban Ballet Company traveled to the US for the first time in 2003. It was during this time that five members defected, as they sought to join American ballet troupes instead.

18. Believe it or not, but Alicia Alonso still directs The Nutcracker at the Valencia Main Theatre.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

She’s literally 98 years old, almost blind, and is still the general director of the Ballet. What. A. Woman. Granted, while there have been calls to have someone else take over, Alonso keeps on with her work. Chances are, she’s never really been held back by the fact that she’s almost blind – Alonso has been working with an eye condition throughout her entire life. 

19. The Cuban Ballet Company performs to cheering crowds.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Everyone knows Cubans know how to tur up. And it’s the same when the dancers perform. This is largely due to the fact that the arts are highly regarded in Cuba. 

20. A documentary was made about the Cuban Ballet Company.

PBS / Mirror Dance

Well, sort of. “Mirror Dance” follows the lives of Cuban-born identical twins, Ramona and Margarita de Saá, as they navigate their roles in the Ballet and international politics. In fact, Ramona is currently the director of the Escuela Nacional de Ballet in Cuba.

21. Did we mention that the Cuban Ballet Company founder Alicia Alonso is a Prima Ballerina Assoluta?

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

For those of you who need to brush up on your ballet terms, “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” is a rare title awarded to ballet dancers who have had a prestigious international career, or have given exceptional service to a particular ballet company. While there’s no universal procedure for awarding the title, usually a ballet company, government or head of state is responsible for recognizing the efforts of the ballet dancer in question. And Alicia Alonso? She’s had such a long, storied ballet career, it’s undeniable that she epitomizes the role of a Prima Ballerina Assoluta.

22. The Cuban Ballet Company’s principal venue can be found in Havana.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

The Great Theatre of Havana is where a lot of the Company’s performances can be seen. As much as it’s a huge effort to have to travel to Havana to see the Company in action, we can imagine that their familiarity with the stage must make their performances that much more amazing!

23. The Cuban Ballet Company is known as the “Ballet Nacional de Cuba” in Spanish.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

It makes sense, really, since it’s the top tier ballet company in Cuba.

24. The founder of the Cuban Ballet Company was still dancing into her 70s.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Alicia Alonso gave her last performance in 1993 when she was 72.

25. Some of the very first dancers at the Cuban National Ballet School include Ernesto Alvarez, Sadaise Arencibia, Elier Bourzac, and Joel Carreno.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

If you couldn’t guess, these dancers are a very big deal when it comes to ballet.

Which fact surprised you the most? Let us know on our Facebook page – you can find it by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.

Snapchat And El Pollo Loco Is Using Augmented Reality To Let People Revisit Lost Murals In Los Angeles

Culture

Snapchat And El Pollo Loco Is Using Augmented Reality To Let People Revisit Lost Murals In Los Angeles

El Pollo Loco

For National Hispanic Heritage Month, El Pollo Loco is paying tribute to lost Latino heritage in Los Angeles by restoring a series of murals across the city. Through the power of Snapchat and augmented reality, the California-based food chain is teaming up with Warren Brand, a curator and board member of Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, to have users go to five blank walls in Los Angeles where iconic murals used to be. There, you can open the Snapchat app, tap on the background to prompt the World Lenses feature and point your phone at the wall. Users will then see a mural that was once located there come to life on their phone screen. The various five mural locations can be found by visiting the website Lostmuralsla.com.  

“We wanted to pay tribute to our Hispanic heritage and Los Angeles roots by preserving the lost Latino artwork and culture for a new generation to experience,” says Bernard Acoca, President and Chief Executive Officer at El Pollo Loco. “For us, this is more than just a moment in time, this is part of our continued commitment to serve the communities that molded and influenced our company.

The campaign is more than just a showcase of cool technology but a way to educate and spread awareness on an issue many might not be aware of. 

Credit: El Pollo Loco

Los Angeles has a deep and profound history when it comes to murals. During the late 1960s and ’70s, Latino artists took to walls to express views on political and social issues, including student uprisings and civil rights struggles. This coincided with the Chicano Pride movement during that period that flourished in East LA and the San Fernando Valley. 

With all this explosion of creativity happening, LA would be referred to as the “mural capital of the world,”  with an estimated 2,500 murals up on city walls during the height of this movement. Then, they started disappearing. According to El Pollo Loco, “Around 60 percent of murals in Los Angeles have vanished due to whitewashing, censorship, carelessness, or a lack of resources for preservation.” 

This was reason enough for the company to bring awareness to this and celebrate the legacy of these murals. Murals are also a part of the history of El Pollo Loco as the food-chain had it’s start in LA and has a mural of it’s own at it’s first store. 

“Los Angeles, one of the greatest mural capitals of the world, has seen an estimated 60 percent of murals vanish experts say,” Acoca said. “Because Los Angeles has been our hometown since 1980 and is the city that inspired the soul of our brand, we want to honor it and our mutual Hispanic heritage.”

In this spirit, El Pollo Loco will also be restoring some murals of their own, including one at its original location.  

Credit: El Pollo Loco

While the campaign will run through October 15, El Pollo Loco will be making some permanent fixtures on LA city walls. To ensure that this restoration of murals survives, the company will be donating its own storefronts as canvases to new murals.

“El Pollo Loco is paying homage to its heritage and the art that was once on Los Angeles’ walls by donating storefronts as the canvases to new murals. The first mural will be painted on El Pollo Loco’s original restaurant location on Alvarado Street, which since opening in 1980 has featured an indoor mural depicting life in Sinaloa, Mexico, the childhood home of the company’s founder,” Acoca said. 

For LA-based muralists Juan Hector Ponce and Hector “Hex” Rios, this campaign is personal to them as some of their work was once erased due to whitewashing. They both were contacted by El Pollo Loco to be a part of the project and help recreate some of their past work. Ponce and his son will be recreating a storefront as part of the campaign that will be a permanent fixture. He says that he is confident that a new generation will take a lot from this campaign and be able to lead a new era of murals in the city. 

“The new generations, with use of technology and the internet, are stronger than previous generations. And those of us older painters still left are proud to see them create,” Ponce said. “While it saddens me that at times people don’t appreciate the beauty of our walls, it serves as a reminder of how important it is that we as a community continue painting more of them.

You can find the digital murals at the following locations:

“Nuestra Gente es Linda y Poderosa” – 2841 Boulder Street, Los Angeles

“Hex BBOY” – 417 East 15th Street, Los Angeles

“SK8 Still Lives” – 7753 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

“Migration” – 1262 South Lake Street, Los Angeles

“Zapata” – 2000 W 6th Street, Los Angeles

READ: Historic Chicano Murals Were Whitewashed All Over Los Angeles But A New Movement Is Bringing Them Back

Nine Unexpected Frida Kahlo Costumes That Will Slay This Halloween

Fierce

Nine Unexpected Frida Kahlo Costumes That Will Slay This Halloween

www.shessobright.com

It’s that time of year again—leaves are changing, brujas are cackling, and we’re all trying to figure out qué demonios to wear for Halloween. Of course, the Frida Kahlo traje is a go-to homage, especially if you want to celebrate beauty, authenticity, and creativity with your costume. Yes, her flower headdresses and flowing folk skirts are quintessentially Kahlo, but as an artist and innovator, she was always playing with her appearance. 

If you want to honor the legendary artista this Halloween, here are some unique ideas that will wow Frida fans everywhere.

Genderbending Frida in her classic men’s suit

credit: kew studio / Pinterest.com 

Kahlo was an artist known for taking fashion conventions and turning them on their head. She was also known to embrace androgyny, emphasizing traits that were traditionally masculine (like her unibrow and facial hair) in her prolific self-portraits. She may be remembered for long braids, dangly earrings, and floral designs, but her openness to her masculine side made Frida who she was—and that’s also worth remembering.

Opt for a slick suit that does the queen justice
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Asos.com 

For the ultimate boyish Frida look, try a cream-colored tailored suit (snag a tie and vest from a bf or bro). Top it off with a slicked-back bun and filled-in brows! Satin Double Breasted Suit Jacket, $89, asos.com

Androgynous Frida, but with a feminine twist

credit: Smithsonian / Pinterest.com

Can’t get enough of that androgynous Frida vibe? We can’t, either. If you’re aiming for a slightly more casual look, you’ve probably got all the goods in your closet already. Pull on some dark jeans, a classy button-up, and a pair of bold earrings for a simple yet artsy ensemble, fit for Frida herself.

Choose an ornate necklace to spice it up 

Etsy.com

Want to dress the look up a bit without being too flashy? Add a splash of glam with a vintage statement necklace to keep it quick and easy, but with a more refined look. Handmade Bib Statement Necklace, $32, etsy.com

Frida kicking back on the terraza 

credit: Fridakahlo.org

Even in cool and casual linen digs, Frida exuded total elegance and grace. You’re hoping to embody her complete badassery in comfy, warm, flattering clothes, right? Then this soft, unassuming getup should be your go-to. You may feel like you’re in your pajamas (YAS), but slip on some high-heeled gaucho boots and you’ve got yourself an edgy look!

Wear a stylish linen tunic that lets accessories shine

Etsy.com

Whether you opt for classic cowboy boots or sexy stilettos, your linen tunic will be a perfect canvas for the finer details of your outfit. Plus, it’s the kind of thing you can wear again and again, even after Halloween’s over! Long Black Linen Tunic Top, $69, etsy.com

Frida in all her gothic glamour

credit: theguardian.com / Pinterest.com 

Okay, okay, finally something fancy! In addition to her characteristically colorful wardrobe, Frida could rock a demure and minimalist style. This look is not only chic—but lace and black velvet both totally fit the aura of the spooky season, making it a perfect option for any costume party.

Choose a shawl like Frida’s, with delicate details

Amazon.com

Frida’s frocks were always intricately crafted, often showing off meticulous, thoughtful flourishes. If you’re planning to mimic this classic black look, be sure to snag a garment that has a little something special, like this shawl with floral pattern and fringe. Black Burnout Robe with Fringe, $86, amazon.com

Frida…with a doily on her head

credit: Artsy.net / Pinterest.com

Frida was an artist, and artists often go to strange lengths to express themselves. She is not only wearing a cute AF sweater in this photo—a cropped cardigan would be a great substitute, btw—but she has adorned her head with…not flowers, not fabric, but paper? Lace? What is a doily, anyway?

Etsy.com

In Mexico, papel picado is used to adorn all sorts of Mexican fiestas, and at the end of the day, it’s essentially a doily. If you’re looking to infuse your costume with a bit of symbolism—and you’re into the whole DIY approach to Halloween—consider using papel picado to achieve this playful look! Since she was a Mexican artist, incorporating this tradition into your outfit would add another layer of depth to your Kahlo tribute. Plus, you can emulate her even further as you flex those creative, crafty muscles! Beautiful Dreamy White Papel Picado Banner, $29, etsy.com

Frida in traditional Tehuana dress

credit: messynessychic.com / Pinterest.com

Widely regarded as quintessential Mexican dress, Frida was particularly fond of the Tehuana traje, with its ornate huipiles and full skirts. Native to Oaxaca, the Tehuana traje is symbolic of a largely matriarchal society, commanding a sense of deep respect and feminine power. 

Artnet.com

Tehuana women don these gorgeous outfits to loudly and proudly celebrate a wide variety of velas (traditional fiestas)—so it’s probably not a good idea to try imitating their traditional fashion. However, you can purchase authentic Mexican-made Tehuana garments at this Etsy shop, in other online stores, and (duh) in Tehuantepec!

Regardless of which Frida look you choose, use this Halloween as a way to honor her groundbreaking history. ¡Te queremos, Frida!