Diary of a Cuban Ballerina
And her stunning image in Cuban photographer Gabriel Davalos's nude photo series.
Daniela Amada Cabrera Machado, 19
Ballet Nacional de Cuba
ON FALLING FOR BALLET
“I’ve loved to dance since I was little. I was always fidgety and constantly jumped and danced around the house pretending to be a ballerina. My parents often took me to classical ballet functions and that was the only time that I’d sit still. My dad would sit me on his lap and I’d pay attention to everything that was happening in each scene, imagining that I was the princess ballerina. When I was four years old, [my parents] took me to a vocational workshop for Spanish dance, and at six years old, they put me in a ballet group for children that was televised. A known dancer saw me in the group and recommended that I apply to the Provincial Ballet School in Havana. I managed to pass the tests and at nine, I officially began my studies.”
ON THE PRESSURES OF BEING A BALLERINA
“From the moment a dancer enrolls at our school, teaches are very insistent that they maintain a certain weight. In fact, the school won’t accept boys or girls of average weight—you must be very thin at the start in order to get accepted. The student is continuously subject to critical regulations to help them get used to keeping up with their weight. During my eight years of study, we had nutrition counseling where we’d be measured, weighed, and offered guidance for the types of food to eat. I believe this phenomenon is typical for all ballet schools—no matter the country. I’ve always been thin, but I’ve had teachers require me to lose weight particularly in the thigh area. I confess that at times, it was stressful but it wasn’t a big problem for me. [My teachers] gave me the tools that I needed to target those muscles without dieting. But I have had companions who have had negative experiences with the matter. I continue to struggle with my body image. However, my body is my instrument of work so I make sure to nurture it by eating well, sleeping over six hours every night, and warming up before workouts.”
ON WORKING WITH GABRIEL DAVALOS
“I’m a faithful admirer of Gabriel’s work. I always follow him because he’s able to capture us the way we are in reality. In each snapshot you can see our years of work, our sacrifice. I look at his photos and see my history since I started in this world. I remember how I got here and it makes me feel great. Gabriel is able to project the work that we ballerinas have accomplished and also, what we must improve. Gabriel and I worked together for the first time in 2012 and it was a wonderful experience. I was 14 years old and had no idea how to pose for artistic photos. I had somewhat of a fear of doing things wrong but as soon as we spoke, I was excited to work with him. I don’t know how he did it, but Gabriel conveyed his ideas with such enthusiasm that I wanted to work with him. And once I did, I recognized his seriousness and exquisite professionalism. Yet I was never exhausted or bored during my sessions with him. The entire time, I was lively, smiling, and optimistic. When Gabriel shared the idea to show ballerinas in the nude in an innocent environment like the city that witnessed all of our growth, I was thrilled. I love everything about the photos that he took of me. The way that the images are able to seduce the viewer in a sublime artistic way and convey transparency, beauty, passion, strength and confidence.” —As told to Lyndsay Green (interview translated from Spanish)
To read the full story on Davalos's nude series, read our full issue, here.