New York-based photographer Omar Robles is well known for his dedication to photographing elegant ballerinas against harsh urban backgrounds. Recently though, he was able to pursue a dream of his when he received an opportunity to travel to Cuba and shoot some of the top-ranked national dancers who live there. His project evolved unexpectedly during the visit, as Robles was simultaneously inspired by the amazing dance skills of these performers and “the cadence of the Cubans in the streets” who struggle to strike a balance from day to day.
Robles’s characteristic urban dance shots capture the beauty and grace of trained athletes who are able to make grand movements look effortless. Robles came to Cuba already expecting to be blown away by the talent, but what he wasn’t prepared for was the extreme levels of poverty which he witnessed throughout the streets. “With an average salary of $25 to $40 per month, Cubans struggle incessantly to stay afloat,” he explains. “Much like the ballet dancers, they strive with a resilience and elegance that I’ve never seen before. Different from the long and weary faces we see in our metropolises, the Cuban people hustle daily with an unparalleled amount of pride, selflessness and dignity. I realized then, that above any other reason, this is exactly why Cuban ballet dancers have always been so great and through so many generations. Endurance simply resides in their blood.”
His beautiful snapshots explore the cultural artistry and strength of the Cuban people from a newfound perspective. Robles found that, despite not earning enough to get by on their art alone, the dancers he encountered through this project were some of the most passionate and kindhearted people he had met.