Havana, midnight; April 2017. I am alone in the streets. The spot-lit Museo de la Revolucion looks ghoulish. The surrounding city is black.

Which is why I approach the portal of a behemoth edifice. The yellow light is strong. The windows above also glimmer, though dimly of security bulbs.  At the doorway, built at the grand size of horses and carriages, I ask the night porter, Can I come inside?

After making sure I am not American (which I am, thus I lie), the porter allows me in. Can I look around? He says no first, then reconsiders. He will for six Cuban dollars. This is one week’s government wages. I agree.

​By the light of his phone, we climb a tight windowless spiral. We exit onto a high-ceilinged corridor adorned with fin-de-siècle flowers and finely etched glass doors. Room by room, he flips on the lights. He steps aside, I step within. This peculiar pas-de-deux grows strained, discordant, as he mumbles about lights and frets about time. My Virgil is about to abandon me. At a drilling tempo I take photos: classrooms with desks, classrooms with barres, the cafeteria, the makeup loge. Che and Fidel grin from pictures planted on walls and boards. They and the florescent bulbs take a surreal slant beneath the bourgeois architectural moulding.

The porter drops his guard to belt out the names of dancers as we pass their photos in the corridor. I stop at one snaring the whole stage. Six columns of the corps de ballet, three ballerinas deep, extend legs a straight ninety degrees. This move is iconic. I say it, then the porter: Giselle. For the first time, he smiles. After this, he does not rush. A ballet-pantomime out of the French July Monarchy, height of the cultural and political power of the haute-bourgeoisie, persists victorious over today’s authoritarians.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 1. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  Principals from the illustrious Cuban ballet company parade down the halls of the school. Surprisingly this photograph of world-famous principle dancer Carlos Acosta leans against a wall behind a table in the corner of a general classroom. He studied at the school before leaving Cuba for an international career, and now he rests on the floor.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 1. Havana, Cuba, 2017. Principals from the illustrious Cuban ballet company parade down the halls of the school. Surprisingly this photograph of world-famous principle dancer Carlos Acosta leans against a wall behind a table in the corner of a general classroom. He studied at the school before leaving Cuba for an international career, and now he rests on the floor.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 2. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  I am photographing the grand staircases of the Neoclassical foyer while the night porter considers the private tour.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 2. Havana, Cuba, 2017. I am photographing the grand staircases of the Neoclassical foyer while the night porter considers the private tour.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 3. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  Propped against the second foyer staircase is this motorcycle, the desirable horse and chariot of modern Cuba.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 3. Havana, Cuba, 2017. Propped against the second foyer staircase is this motorcycle, the desirable horse and chariot of modern Cuba.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 4. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  Inside a dance classroom, barres and a prop door are pushed against the wall.  I want to spring through the door and find the dancers on the other side.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 4. Havana, Cuba, 2017. Inside a dance classroom, barres and a prop door are pushed against the wall. I want to spring through the door and find the dancers on the other side.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 5. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  A freshly painted floor has resulted in barres and chairs pushed off to the side.  Unable to move beyond the doorframe, I find myself in an Edgar Degas perspective.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 5. Havana, Cuba, 2017. A freshly painted floor has resulted in barres and chairs pushed off to the side. Unable to move beyond the doorframe, I find myself in an Edgar Degas perspective.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 6. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  At night, the Escuela angles and perspectives compete and merge in a dance of surreal composition.  The Wilis of Giselle will appear any minute.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 6. Havana, Cuba, 2017. At night, the Escuela angles and perspectives compete and merge in a dance of surreal composition. The Wilis of Giselle will appear any minute.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 7. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  Electrical infrastructure in Havana amounts to cobbled-together cabling and fixtures.  In the dance studios and classrooms of the Escuela, this translates into a more refined, yet no less conspicuous, overlay of florescent tubing slicing up Neoclassical arches.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 7. Havana, Cuba, 2017. Electrical infrastructure in Havana amounts to cobbled-together cabling and fixtures. In the dance studios and classrooms of the Escuela, this translates into a more refined, yet no less conspicuous, overlay of florescent tubing slicing up Neoclassical arches.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 8. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  The Carlos Acosta photograph as I first discovered it, the dancer cut off at the neck by a table.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 8. Havana, Cuba, 2017. The Carlos Acosta photograph as I first discovered it, the dancer cut off at the neck by a table.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 9. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  The marble-and-plaster staircase is but a poor corps de ballet dancer against the gilded cherub-strewn ceiling, its architectural principal.  Puckish is the tone of housing the Revolution’s revered ballet school in this Neoclassical private mansion showcasing staggering wealth and bourgeois taste.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 9. Havana, Cuba, 2017. The marble-and-plaster staircase is but a poor corps de ballet dancer against the gilded cherub-strewn ceiling, its architectural principal. Puckish is the tone of housing the Revolution’s revered ballet school in this Neoclassical private mansion showcasing staggering wealth and bourgeois taste.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 10. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  A grid of florescent lights makes metaphor physical: Recent history is illuminated (the smiling Che), and the past is thrown into shadow (Neoclassical window treatments).
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 10. Havana, Cuba, 2017. A grid of florescent lights makes metaphor physical: Recent history is illuminated (the smiling Che), and the past is thrown into shadow (Neoclassical window treatments).
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 11. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  In the same classroom as No. 10, a board is pinned with relevant history: a full character dance of luminaries from the Revolution and the world of Cuban ballet.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 11. Havana, Cuba, 2017. In the same classroom as No. 10, a board is pinned with relevant history: a full character dance of luminaries from the Revolution and the world of Cuban ballet.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 12. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  In the shadowy underbelly of a staircase, the memory of the overthrown past murmurs.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 12. Havana, Cuba, 2017. In the shadowy underbelly of a staircase, the memory of the overthrown past murmurs.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 13. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  Inside another classroom, the students face not a blackbloard or bulletin board but the leap of legs into cabrioles.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 13. Havana, Cuba, 2017. Inside another classroom, the students face not a blackbloard or bulletin board but the leap of legs into cabrioles.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 14. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  Lights from a loge illuminate the upper levels of a Spanish-style inner courtyard.  Romeo and Juliet’s longings leap to mind.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 14. Havana, Cuba, 2017. Lights from a loge illuminate the upper levels of a Spanish-style inner courtyard. Romeo and Juliet’s longings leap to mind.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 15. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  At night, steps in the corridor echoes.  Here, especially, the night porter requests silence.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 15. Havana, Cuba, 2017. At night, steps in the corridor echoes. Here, especially, the night porter requests silence.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 16. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  In this room overlooking the courtyard, students and adult dancers ready for performances, putting on makeup at mirrors and congregating at the tables.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 16. Havana, Cuba, 2017. In this room overlooking the courtyard, students and adult dancers ready for performances, putting on makeup at mirrors and congregating at the tables.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 17. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  A bulletin board obstructs the mirror in a dance studio. It details the history of Cuban ballet in carefully clipped collage—and accented with SpongeBob SquarePants.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 17. Havana, Cuba, 2017. A bulletin board obstructs the mirror in a dance studio. It details the history of Cuban ballet in carefully clipped collage—and accented with SpongeBob SquarePants.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 18. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  Even in the cafeteria, the chairs could be in arabesque, prepared to move in lines across the stage à-la Act II of Giselle.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 18. Havana, Cuba, 2017. Even in the cafeteria, the chairs could be in arabesque, prepared to move in lines across the stage à-la Act II of Giselle.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 20. Havana, Cuba, 2017.  The Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet looks down over the tree-lined Paseo de Marti, where under a full moon, a lone child flashes by on his bike.
Silent Dance of The Icons: Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, No. 20. Havana, Cuba, 2017. The Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet looks down over the tree-lined Paseo de Marti, where under a full moon, a lone child flashes by on his bike.
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