HAVANA – Cuban state-run television is opening up to international formats with the airing of “Bailando en Cuba” (Dancing in Cuba), a dance competition imitating successful foreign entertainment programs rather than continuing with the normal austerity of local productions.
“Bailando en Cuba” is the natural heir to the “Sonando en Cuba” singing competition that aired last summer and with which RTV Comercial television successfully combined Cuba’s rich musical culture with elements of TV-reality shows and other programs like “La Voz,” attracting high viewership ratings.
The Cuban public, exposed to foreign programs via alternative routes, responded with enthusiasm to the idea, and great expectations abound for the new show, according to the director of both programs, Manolo Ortega.
Cuban TV productions usually consist of historical documentaries, soap operas with social critique and low-cost musical or variety programs, due primarily to the lack of budgeting and the country’s dire economic straits.
Until very recently, Cubans only had access to this type of TV content, something that shifted a few years back with the so-called “Paquete de la Semana,” a mainly audiovisual collection that is an alternative route for the local dissemination of films, series and reality shows – most of them US-made.
“Bailando en Cuba” will have the same production team and its promotional trailer shows 16 couples dancing at well-known sites in Havana such as the Morro and the Paseo del Prado, evidencing a marshalling of resources and a budget intended to also appeal to international markets.
“If we in Cuba want to insert ourselves into the market, we have to work with the same formats that exist for any country,” RTV Comercial production director Wendy Ferrer told EFE on Thursday.
Although the shows will display the country’s “Cuba-ness,” in the end “the format (of the programs) is the same. In fact, for the international marketing we’re doing, they’re asking us for that format, which gets us closer to that language that the international public knows,” she said.
Ferrer said that along with several series and film projects, the production team is also resuming “Sonando en Cuba,” this time with a more international focus which will transform it into “Sonando en el Caribe” with the potential participation of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
With the slogan “The island of music is now dancing for you,” the dance program will aid next Sunday in prime time on Cubavision, the most important of the island’s five TV channels.
The show will feature 16 couples – comprised of a professional and an amateur – who “will work hard” to win over the public and the competition’s three judges: prestigious Cuban choreographers Santiago Alfonso and Lizt Alfonso, and Susanna Pous, a Spanish dancer who has lived in Cuba for 18 years, where she founded her own dance company, Danza Abierta.
Pous says that “the most important thing is the issue of honesty, how to be impartial, how to be fair. It’s a big responsibility.”