Contemporary Dance of Cuba: Two Islands, a Single Drive

Fleur Darkin, one of the most interesting figures in the new wave of British choreographic, will premiere a play with the Contemporary Dance of Cuba.  

In the stages of the Contemporary Dance of Cuba (CDC) work is unstoppable. The company is one of the main laboratories of Cuban arts: every year important present-day choreographers go through this venue nurturing and getting nurtured of a cast of “all-terrain” dancers. That is the case of the British Fleur Darkin which as part of the program Creative Islands, arrived in Havana a few months ago with the intention of preparing a show. And right now, about to run it for the first time, is still awed by the quality of the performers.  

"Not every day one has the chance to work with so professional dancers - comments a few minutes before the beginning of the rehearsal. They can dance everything and they dance it very well. It’s interesting the way in which they approach new rules. It has been a very rich work that has taught me a lot."  

What Darkin says is very much alike to what choreographers who have worked with Contemporary Dance of Cuba have said, as part of this collaboration project the company has developed with the British Council for three years.  

It’s all about spreading more bridges between two distant and very different islands, but in the field of choreographic creation and dance in general share a history of some time already.  

Darkin run by the Scottish Dance Theatre has enriched the CDC repertoire now with Equilux, a work in which the creativity of dancers is essential.  

"It has shown us new paths – assures dancer Andrés Ascanio -, another way to using the body and channel our impulses. In the end we are ourselves, with another way of saying."  

For another of the performers, Thais Suárez, one of the good fortunes of belonging to Contemporary Dance of Cuba is to be able to interact with so many choreographers, of dissimilar origins and styles. "I loved the assembly process, to get adapted little by little to another vision of dance."  

Equilux will be premiered at Mella Theater between Friday 10th and on Sunday November 12th. According to Miguel Iglesias, director of CDC, this is one of the best scenarios for the dance in Cuba. Although the theater has needed some repair for a while, the technicians of the company work hard to have everything ready in time. It’s a theater they know perfectly.  

The program will be completed with the replay of Coil, the most recent work of the Cuban Julio Cesar Iglesias for the group, premiered last summer in July.  

After the season in Havana, Contemporary Dance of Cuba will travel to one of its strong scenarios, Mexico, since by the end of the month they will perform at the National Auditory Carmina Burana, with choreography of George Cespedes, one of their most awarded shows in the last years.

Amilkal Labañino Valdés / Cubasi Translation Staff

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YOUNG AND ARTIST: “I would like to dance without having to go through rehearsals”

Lisandra Gómez, first dancer of the Contemporary Ballet of Camagüey, is a delegate to the World Festival of Youth and Students. I interviewed her after a rehearsal at her company’s headquarters.

At the art school, Lisandra studied the technique and style of a more academic dance, but life took her through another course: for several years now she has been first dancer of a company, where you do not have to stand on your tips: The Contemporary Ballet of Camagüey.

—Do you miss you never danced a classic? Would you have liked, for example, to dance Giselle?

—I would have liked a lot to dance Swan Lake, which always was my favorite classic. Although I had the opportunity to do it in Peru, after having been dancing contemporary ballet for eight years.

—Why contemporary ballet?

—That was not a choice, it was a need. And it was the possibility to go on dancing. I could not continue dancing classics because of health problems. I had iron absorption problems and rigorous diets did not allow me to continue dancing a more academic line.

—It seems you took on contemporary ballet without much desire….

—Of course, I took it with all desires! What I liked most was the possibility to come closer to very diverse languages. The freedom I felt captivated me, not only while dancing, but also while creating myself. I could break barriers I had from school, sometimes ballet teaching is pretty closed. An arabesque is an arabesque, but in contemporary dance you can “fracture” that same step and take two or three new ones with the same basis.

—They say dancers are too engaged in their world. How is your life beyond dance? What are you interested in?

—Of course, I am very passionate about photography. I would like to devote myself to it at some point in my life. My family is a vital topic for me. I like to spend time with my son, to arrive home and forget the problems of my workplace, simply to be that concerned mother, who sits next to him to help him with his homeworks.

—But you live with another dancer at home. What’s so good or bad to be married with someone who does the same job as you?

—I haven’t found anything wrong yet. And it’s been five years. At first, people used to tell me to be careful, that a relationship like that could not be healthy, because we spent too much time together, at work and at home, and that many things were going to mix… Certainly, we take work problems to the house, but I don’t think that will deteriorate the relationship. Jesús (Arias) is my support. He’s a person who knows me, who I do not have to take poses with. He’s the man who understands me when I arrived home very tired, because he knows from his own experience how difficult it is to develop a career like ours.                                                                          

—What do you feel seconds before a performance begins?

—I get very nervous…

—How do you handle that nervousness?

—That only lasts some seconds, just the moment before coming on stage. After I am out there, it’s magic. I stop being myself and begin to feel differently. I cannot explain it to you with words, it’s ineffable.

—Is there any ballet, any character which you have particularly felt comfortable with?

—Yes, it has happened with “A él” (To him), piece by Pedro Ruiz. I love characters that demand from me not only a technique, but a feeling, a commitment, a psychology as well… That ballet demands so. And if you add that the character is Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, because I consider her the best. I always identify myself with that woman. She was absolutely revolutionary; she always went beyond her time.

—A dancer’s career is usually short…

—I have never thought about the sadness of finishing. When you love art, dance, your career is forever, because there are many ways to go on contributing. The day when I cannot dance any more, I am not going to feel sad, because I will keep the desires to create. I feel a very strong need to teach. Right now, I lack time to investigate; perhaps I will have it when I stop dancing. I would like to venture into photography more frequently.

         With her husband and co-worker, first dancer Jesús Arias.


—When did you know you were going to be a dancer?

—In the last years at elementary level. Earlier, I just wanted to dance. When I was a girl my mother took me to watch a ballet performance and I fell in love with the tutu and ballet slippers. I wanted to dance but I was not very aware about what a profession meant. When I was in fourth year, I realized that in addition to pleasure, dancing implied great responsibilities. It was like a revelation. And hence, I knew that I wanted to be a dancer.

—I know what you are going to answer, but anyway I ask you: what do you like the most, the stage or the rehearsal room?

—Obviously: the stage! I would like to dance every day of my life without having to go through rehearsals. But well, that’s impossible. Staging and rehearsing processes are indispensable. You must have chances to make mistakes without big consequences; you have to know your character, you have to work on the cleanness of your performance….

—Do you dream that you dance? Are you a better or worse dancer in your dreams?

—A lot! I see myself doing turns I cannot do in normal life.

—You are a delegate to the World Festival of Youth and Students. What prospects do you travel to Russia with?

—Those of the exchange with young people from all over the world. I might answer questions about the life of a youn person in Cuba and would like to know about the reality of other places. Dialogue will always be the most important thing.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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Cuban Ballet Group to Close 2016 Dancing in Cuba

The Lizt Alfonso Ballet of Cuba, a ballet group recently awarded with the International Spotlight Award in the United States, announced that it will close its 2016 performing season with a show called ''1..2...3...Everybody to Stage'' in Cuba.

All the generations of the ballet company including its professional current staff will take part in this show, in which the audience will be able to watch the children and adolescents dance.

The Avellaneda Room of the National Theater, will be the host of the show on December 9, 10 and 11.

Lizt Alfonso, director of the ballet company, received The International Spotlight for Arts and Humanities, from the hands of US First Lady Michelle Obama.

The International Spotlight is awarded by the White House every year.

On the month of November, the institution held its 9th tour on the United States, during which they acted in cities such as Chicago, Lewisburg, Detroit, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and California.

The ensemble, founded 25 years ago by Lizt Alfonso, teacher and choreographer, has been applauded in over 200 cities around the world by its shocking style of fusion, mixing elements of flamenco, ballet, contemporary dance, folklore and different folk dances.

The company has been the only dance company of Cuba that has managed to act in the popular the Latin Grammy ceremony, and in the year 2008, won the International DORA Award in Toronto, Canada, for best choreography in a Musical Work in the year, with the show called 'Vida'.

The Lizt Alfonso Ballet Group seduced audiences over the world over when it appeared in the video clip of the song 'Bailando', composed by Descemer Bueno Cuban and sung first by the local duo Gente de Zona and later by the Spanish Enrique Iglesias.

For 2017 Alfonso plans to realize the world premiere of 'Latido', a work musically arranged on music composed by one of the leading exponents of Latin jazz around the world, the Cuban saxophonist César López.

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Contemporary Dance Ensemble celebrates 57th anniversary with dance extravaganza

Cuba’s Contemporary Dance Ensemble is celebrating its 57th birthday with two weekends of shows at Havana’s Grand Theater Alicia Alonso as of Friday.

The programs are set to include the main pieces of their current active repertoire. The first week’s programs include pieces by Cuban choreographers: El Cristal by Julio César Iglesias; Laura Domingo’s Cenit and Matria etnocentra by George Céspedes. The second week the ensemble’s dancers will perform Reversible by Belgian-Colombian choreographer, Annabelle López Ochoa; Tangos cubanos by Billie Cowie; and the much acclaimed Mambo 3XXI by George Céspedes.

With more than 300 premieres throughout its long history, the company, directed by Miguel Iglesias, has been at the avant-garde of the island’s dance scene since its establishment on September 25th, 1962, performing a repertoire of the most varied aesthetic values, styles and tendencies.

Edited by Damian Donestevez
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Habanarte 2016 Festival showing Intense Dancing Program

Habanarte 2016 Festival reaches its third event through an intense dancing program which includes the presentation of different national dancing companies such as the local Danza abierta one, Raíces Profundas one, Malpaso one, Banrrará one and the Spanish Ballet from Cuba, respectively.

Likewise, local García Lorca room of the Gran Teatro (Great Theater) of Havana city will present Malpaso dancing company, which is directed by young choreographer Osnel Delgado, along with a wide-program concert.

On September 16th, Rosario Cárdenas will be performing on Mella Theater's stage through the performance entitled 'Antología Danzaria' (dancing anthology) that includes the most important milestones of her personal career.

Havanarte 2016 festival, which is regarded as the great cultural festival of the Cuban culture, will run until September 18th, along with an intense program of activities that unites all the artistic representations from the Cuban archipelago.

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Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba to debut in Turkey

Havana.- Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba (LADC, as per its initials in Spanish) will perform this Friday for the first time in Turkey during the closing of the 2015-2016 theatre season of the Is Sanat Istanbul Concert Hall, as the company  informed.

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Carlos Acosta showed that the English dance Conga too

One of the best Cuban dancers talked exclusively with Cubasí and Granma about the success of Cubania (Cubanness), the show he premiered in London recently....

And the fact is that as he is one of the greatest Cuban dancers in the classical repertoire, this does not prevent Carlos Acosta from creating beyond all frontiers, without prejudices or harms to good art. Exclusively talking with Cubasí website and Granma newspaper, he commented the experience of Cubanía, a show that put the British to dance conga:

“I had the possibility to make a production at the Royal Opera House, I wanted to make a show, called Cubanía, so I prepared a programme and included a suite in the second part of that programme. It’s a smaller version of Tocororo that was not danced for a long time and the show was highly successful…”

“At the end we finished with the conga at the Royal Ballet, that was precisely what they wanted, because of the ballet with elitist stamp that remains there, then as I am a person who embraces another sector of the population they wanted me to make a production to attract younger people, with another view and to break some stigma of classicism in that theater a little bit…“

If critics expected more or less, that does appear to worry this virtuoso who assures to be satisfied with a staging he had conceived very well since his birth.

“It’s a show for the audience, critics come and go with it, because at the moment in which I am, they judge me too harshly and actually what I aim is to achieve something more entertaining, something more popular, this sort of thing for people, it’s a summer show, the sun, the tropics, colors, the Caribbean, that is what Tocororo aims, it does not intend to propose new views in the art issue, but rather for people and that goal was fulfilled, the audience stood up to dance with the conga, it achieved that direct contact with the audience, but at the same time I knew there would be a split in opinions among critics.”

Because of production reasons the show may not be presented in Cuba at the moment, and Carlos Acosta won’t attend the next Ballet Festival, but the famous Cuban dancer plans to return sooner rather than later to put down roots on the island:

“I want to come to Cuba to form my own company here, a small company of neoclassical and contemporary dance, I’m still maturing the project line, but I’m working on that and think it will be in two years time. I will perform the next season completely, a full classical repertoire as I always do it, but in the next one, I’m going to mount Carmen for the Royal Ballet and this will be my farewell from all the world’s stages in the classical repertoire, so by 2016 the Cuban audience will have me fairly enough here.”

And in fact the dream is taking shape because Acosta has held talks with the Minister of Culture, has undertaken efforts to establish a headquarters and assesses the possibility to join a British theater that would accompany the project, mainly in promotion affairs.

Regarding the possibility to publish in Cuba the Spanish version of his novel released in English last October and whose very Cuban theme allowed to certain degree the chance to produce a show like Cubanía, Acosta affirmed: “To publish the book here, of course, that will happen in some moment, but I also wrote a biography, then I’d like it to be in that order, first the autography and the novel later.”

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin/ Cubasí Translation Staff

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People wanted party and there was party… but the Havana Carnival agonizes for lack of identity.

We must applaud the effort of organizers. This year the Havana Carnival went beyond its customary boundaries: there were activities in several neighborhoods of the city. The idea was to bring the entire city to live a festivity atmosphere… something pretty big task for such a huge city.

The program of concerts by popular bands was gladly applauded: great Cuban orchestras of dance music performed at squares and other spaces. People danced and had a good time until late in the evenings.

The gastronomic offer was considerably good… although, we need to say, there was a lack in a differentiated price policy: goods are still expensive, at least most of them. It must be said that the quality was not the best sometimes.

It’s common knowledge that transportation is the big issue of these parties, and once again the main bus lines had a considerable support.

There was also a sensation of safety, civic tranquility. The police deployment was remarkable. For some, perhaps excessive… but the truth is that a good atmosphere was guaranteed. The Havana Carnival is one of the safest parties in the entire continent.

All in all, people wanted party and they had party. But it needs to be said: the Carnival has not been what once was and they were at its best. But the party agonizes for lack of cultural identity, and for an economic design clearly insufficient.

Summarizing: the Carnival lacks "personality" and resources.

Let’s take a step at the time. There was a time when the Carnivals were a great popular party. The climax was during the 60’s, back then in the entire city celebration was in the air. A tradition was honored: large floats, fireworks, the election of queens and dames of the carnival, concerts, dancing, processions, and the carnival floats.

But that tradition is broken, partly because of economic restrains and partly because of prejudices against the character of the festivity: it was thought, for example that the election of a queen remembered little bourgeois habits.

There were changes in the dates, the routines, uncertainty in the artistic proposals.

In the harsh years of the Economic Crisis it hit rock bottom. There were years that carnivals were not even summoned. At some point, what once was a Carnival became a pale “popular party”.

Fortunately, local authorities understood the need to rescue the celebration. And for some years efforts are carried out to revive them.

But the Havana Carnival has lost its character, its aesthetic calling. And the big floats, filled of lights, are now discreet trucks; and the parade of processions are no match for those of the past.

The show has lost its bright and strength. It’s hard even epic to recover the former glories.

The assessment of the Havana Carnival falls low much more when compared with those of much smaller populations, where inhabitants and authorities struggled to keep their traditions alive.

In Remedios, Camajuaní, Caibarién, Chambas and other small towns and cities in the center of the island, every year celebrate carnivals of great summoning, showy and fireworks.

We don’t need to go very far, in Bejucal, near Havana, the square works have international fame.

It’s the great paradox: small cities have more overwhelming carnivals than those of the province capitals and Havana.

Havana would very much like to parade some of the floats from Remedios or Camajuaní, true monuments of fantasy and the hard work of those small towns. Perhaps have the show of fireworks like those of Chambas, just to bring forth an example.

The question is: why not? Havana is the country’s showcase. Here are concentrated the largest artistic potential and supposedly the most effective economic mechanisms.

But we insist: the Havana Carnival lacks a keystone that must be strengthened by the help of all the political, cultural, and economic entities of the city.

The Carnival needs to be prepared the entire year, like those small towns "of the center". The company of the carnival, the local government should work to the detail the financing plan, to review artistic proposals.

The best designers must be summoned, either through contest or specific orders, so the result stands at the height of a city with more than two million inhabitants.

The carnival floats must be built with a clear aesthetic vocation, costumes must be renovated as well as the decorations of parades. The best choreographers, teachers, dancers, musicians, actors must be involved…

Budget will always raise problem, but Havana needs a better party. Large tourist chains and private business could contribute to the improvement of a party that in the end can be profitable for everyone.

It’s not easy task, but it’s neither impossible. Many things has been made in the last years, but is not enough yet. The city deserves a better carnival. Better thought and even better executed. The greatest responsibility obviously falls on the shoulders of the local government. But this task belongs to the entire Havana. The Carnival belongs to everyone.

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