To most dancers, practicing without a mirror is inconceivable.
“A dancer has no way of examining her work except in a mirror
because she herself is her own medium and instrument,”
explains Alma Guillermoprieto in her book “Dancing with Cuba:
A Memoir of the Revolution.” This was just one of the
obstacles that Guillermoprieto encountered in her months in Cuba
— the months that would shape her political conscience.

Book Reviews

“Dancing with Cuba” is Alma Guillermoprieto’s
first-person narrative of her journey to Cuba and how it deeply
affected her way of thinking. The story begins in New York City
with the author, having come to the states from Mexico to dance,
trying to make a living as a modern dancer. Jumping from the
studios of Martha Graham to those of Merce Cunningham and also to
those of Twyla Tharp, the reader is introduced to the intricacies
of the NYC dancing scene.

Guillermoprieto’s dreams of being a principal in a modern
dance company are shattered when one of her teachers suggests that
she take a teaching job in Cuba, but after deciding to take the
job, Guillermoprieto’s journey really begins.

At first, the ways and ideals of the Cuban people seem foreign
to Guillermoprieto. At the age of 21, she had never really thought
about issues beyond her own dancing, let alone those of a
revolution. The fact that there are no mirrors in the dancing
studios seems barbaric, not patriotic. The feelings of the school
where she is teaching and of the people around her almost drive her
home, but the children — her students — keep her coming
to class.

Throughout her months in Cuba, Guillermoprieto’s ideas
about the revolution and about politics in general shift and come
into focus. She comes to understand and appreciate the experiences
of living through a revolution.

“Dancing with Cuba” is a beautifully written account
of one woman’s experience with revolution. It is an easy
read, as the author’s voice reverberates in her words,
revealing the powerful emotions and intense passion that make up
this dancer. Even though the events are real, the narrative reads
like a novel. The lyrical prose of the story perfectly accents the
dancing — the catalyst for the author’s
self-realization — and the honesty of the language is
refreshing. “Dancing with Cuba” is definitely a story
for anyone who enjoys dance, but it is also a touching narrative
that anyone who has ever experienced a major life change can relate
to.

Book Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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