The performing arts have historically been an outlet for creative expression and personal liberation through hard times. In Cuba, many of the youths who have come from troubled homes or face poverty have been invited to a new space that encourages them as artists, and hopes to increase the potential for a more financially prosperous future. Performers who travel abroad with circus companies have a chance of earning up to $1,000 a month, a significant financial advantage over many of the salaries offered in traditional jobs within the country.

Recently, an abandoned movie theater in a working-class section of Havana has began operating as a training camp for nearly 70 Cuban children–some as young as 9–who have hopes of joining the circus. Cuba’s National Circus affords kids a chance to work with the company as well as with other major touring companies all over the world, including Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Brothers.

All photos by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters