Cuban dancer keeps dream alive despite rare illness

STORY: This ballet dancer thought a rare disorder would end his career

But after a long rehabilitation he overcame his illness

and is now a ‘first dancer’ at Cuba’s National Ballet

Location: Havana, Cuba

Yankiel Vázquez, Ballet dancer:

“I joined the company in 2011 and suffered from an illness, the Guillain-Barré syndrome, which left me incapacitated. I had to begin rehabilitation. First, I had to learn how to walk again. That took several months. Then came the more challenging part when I arrived at Cuba's National Ballet. The physical preparation was harder and more complicated. I experienced a lot of pain. It was hard because I came with my illness, and they label you as if you are still weak, but thanks to rehabilitation, I was able to carry on

and became the first dancer.”

Cuba's National Ballet was founded in 1948 in Havana

and is among the world's most renowned ballet companies

The company's 70 dancers have long benefited from a team of physiotherapists

Mauro Medel, Physiotherapist:

“We have seen the work done by physiotherapists at the ballet and we have contacted them to share some techniques that haven’t been able to be distributed across the world due to the pandemic, for example. The communication and possibility to attend courses and specialize and to have the latest knowledge has always been limited because of technological access. That is why we came with some tools and new techniques to show the Cuban physiotherapists how to work with these regular injuries, mainly in ankles, feet, knees and hips.”