A Day in Havana - Sephardic Synagogue and Malpaso Ballet Company

March 29, 2019

I recently went on a cruise with my extended family which included a day and a half stop in Havana, Cuba. Needless to say I was very excited to finally visit this beautiful and historic city.

Panorama view of the Terminal Sierra Maestra (cruise port area) of Havana

In advance of my trip I communicated with a local Cuban photo tour agency to ask about a guide who could show me and some family members around. I was thriled when, after a few rounds of emails, I was paired with a professor of photography at the Havana University of Art. I could not have been happier about this arrangement.

Panorama view of Havana from the opposite side of our cruise ship

We met Alfredo Sarabia, a professor of photography and an accomplished Cuban artist, in the main square (Plaza de San Francisco de Asis Square) near the cruise port, and headed out for a full day of discovery. Alfredo had a list of places planned for us to visit, but left of plenty of time for us to take photos of whatever inspired us along the way.

This blog will be the first of several I will do about our time in Havana, and will focus on our first stop, at the Malpaso Ballet Company of Havana.

After walking a short distance (very slowly as some of us needed photos beside the classic cars!) we took a taxi to the Sephardic Jewish Centre Synagogue of Havana.

I learned that the synagogue was founded in 1954 and is the only Sephardic Synagogue in Havana. Sephardic Jews are Jews who were expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Here is a brief but helpful article saying more about this.

The synagogue also serves as an education centre in memory of the Holocaust and to raise awareness of ongoing persecution against Jews around the world.

We were led inside the synagogue sancturary where members of the Malpaso Dance Company were practicing their skills. We were welcome to take photos without interrupting their training.

We should not have been surpised at the incredible skills of the dancers, as the Malpaso Dance Company is internationally renowned, and has toured in many countries. Nonetheless were were captured by the beauty of their form and technique as we watched them practice.

We were also free to explore, and take photos, throughout the entire synagogue.

A fisheye view from the balcony.

 

Window views from inside the synagogue.

 

After some time there, we went back out into the street to continue our tour of Havana.

Many thanks to the Sephardic Synagogue of Havana and the Malpaso Dance Company for the opportunity to visit and discover both history and contemporary dance together!


Culture Snap Photography features the work of Toronto-based photographer Henry VanderSpek. Henry specializes in documenting the work of local and international non-profit organizations, special events, live music, street and art photography. To hire Henry for an assignment, please click here to get in touch.
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