Imagining Cutumba

The Ballet Folkórico Cutumba is one of Cuba's oldest and most highly respected folkloric dance companies. Cutumba's progenitor, the Grupo Folkórico del Oriente, was founded in the year of the Revolution, 1959, and embodied the new mission of culture in the new Cuba: to preserve and celebrate the people's culture. Since Cutumba is based in the provincial capital city of Santiago de Cuba, its repertoire specializes in traditions unique to the Oriente, or eastern half of the island.


Laurence Salzmann's photographs of the Ballet Folkórico Cutumba, Imagining Cutumba, give a unique, highly individual window into life in late-Socialist Cuba. His rich, smoky images are fantasies of light and movement that do not immediately locate themselves on an imagined, sunny Caribbean island that is already the tantalizing subject of so many American fantasies. Salzmann beckons us to a fresh encounter with Cuban culture, one whose mystique is refracted through his lens and his imagination. These photographs are also ethnographic, although not in the usual way and not on the surface.

A Catalog of the exhibit

Imagining Cutumba a catalog prepared for an exhibit at Williams Center for the Arts Lafayette College, Easton Pennsylvania, 2002.
16 page catalog (8"x8") with 12 offset reproductions in color and black and white.

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The contagious mysteries of Cuban dance and Cuban rhythms are visually and viserally rendered in the photographs of Laurence Salzman. costumed ephemeral collections strike intriguing compositional form; stories told on fabric journey blissfully, and spirited bodies repeat ancient patterns
Yvonne Daniel, author Rumba
Imagining Cutumba shown during El Festival Cubano in Philadelphia is now available as a traveling show. Includes 12 photographic banners made by Vutek, Inc (4x6 feet), 16 photographic prints size 10"x10" (framed and matted 17"x17"). A 24 minute video comes with the show.


Imagining Cutumba is a wonderful short video that captures the spirit behind the marvelous stage presence of Cuban folkloric ensemble El Ballet Folklórico Cutumba. Award winning photographer Laurence Salzmann shot the video during one of several visits to the city of Santiago de Cuba. Santiago, shown picturesquely nestling in the mountains of eastern Cuba, has its own distinctive traditions, many of which reveal the influence of earlier generations of Haitian immigrants. Cutumba is the premier folkloric ensemble of the region, and brings to the stage Cuban-and especially Afro-Cuban and Haitian-song, dance, rhythm, and festival. Salzmann focuses on Cutumba's rehearsal process, interspersing cuts in which company members ruminate on what their work means to them. The viewer comes away intrigued by the glimpses of dances such as the "caballito" or "little horse" dance of Santiago's late-July Carnival and the plantation-slavery-era Tumba Francesa on which the video ends. By the end, we understand why the dancer who opens the video defines Cutumba as fiesta and tradición.

On the right is an excerpt.

The film is availble for $24.00
with free shipping