The headline activity for today was another exhibition of sorts: we went to the Escuela Nacional de Ballet (National Ballet School) to observe and photograph the students in class. We were on a precise schedule, waiting at our hotel (only a few minutes away by bus) from the school until they were ready for us. We arrived around 9:00am, and spent a few minutes in the beautiful lobby of the predictably run-down building for a formal introduction to the Director.
After that, we all split up and wandered around, popping into classrooms and rehearsal studios at will. Classes changed at 10:00, and we all somehow found ourselves in a very large studio that seemed to be gathering students, teachers and other guests. What we soon figured out was that there was a graded recital for some of the advanced students taking place, and so we spent the next two hours photographing the best as they tried their best.
Much like the boxing gym yesterday, photographing these students – despite knowing more or less where they were going to be, and having the freedom to move anywhere in the room (not on the dance floor, of course) – was a huge challenge. I left exhausted. I thought I had reached a personal high at the boxing gym with over 1,000 images in about two hours; I left the ballet school with 2,000 (1). Lots of material to review.
After lunch on my own and after the class, I hit the streets again for some more relaxing photography. Havana is really a great walking town. A mile in any direction from the hotel covers a lot of the center city. There are so few cars that you can easily walk in the middle of most of the side streets without much problem.
People are friendly enough if not always thrilled if you take their picture. On the other hand, those side streets are often in disrepair, there are open dumpsters where people deposit their household trash, dogs and cats roam freely and do their stuff anywhere.
We had dinner in the “formal” dining room at the hotel. Formal, in this case, means I wore a shirt with a collar. People were still in shorts, though not I. After dinner, I think some people retired for the evening. But I couldn’t resist going out and shooting the night scenes again. I mentioned to Sally that there are two aspects of these photography workshops: the formal and informal learning parts, and the opportunity to spend large amounts of time photographing interesting subjects. This particular workshop has certainly hit a home run in both aspects.
(1) These four hours of shooting – boxing and ballet – represented fully 1/2 of the images I captured during the entire trip. However, they represented a much smaller percentage of the images I have elected to show.