CRITICAL ZONE: People’s Art, Real Art

Folk dancing for the stage faces a huge challenge in Cuba: to renew itself without betraying its principles.

The great masters, the founding masters of folk dance for the stage went first to the focus, to folk festivals, to the temple houses, to the celebrations and rituals of a tradition. That was, still is, and will be an irreplaceable, huge, strong inheritance; a reference, a source to which creators must always return to.

But those maestros were not satisfied after drinking from those waters and reproducing what they saw on stage. It was (and still is about) recreating that reality (or magnifying it, like so many times have said maestro Manolo Micler, director of the National Folklore Ensemble), to shed light on a new art, with deeply popular roots, alright, but a new art , side by side with the best and most innovative of the world choreographic art.

That is the basic condition of professional dance, inspired in the folklore of the nation: that’s not the focus, it can’t be: it must be stylization, aesthetic, and integrative expression, involved and intentional recreation of that living heritage.

Starting from that, we can understand which should be (which are, in fact), the goals of professional companies that do folk dance for the stage. Documentary passion should never cloud the artistic calling. And the people has its own art (folklore), but the stage has its codes, demands, needs, responsibilities, rules ... that can’t be overlooked. And embracing them does not mean betraying that art of the people.

It may sound very easy, but artists know that it’s a complex process. Right now, in Cuba there are circumstances that influence the exercise of artists and companies. Some are domestic, they are related to the creative practices and routines.

We must investigate more, much more ... and we must be aware of the current trends in the professional show. It’s time to overcome common schemes and places.

But other dilemmas somehow transcend the creators: in the training system there are difficulties with the teaching staffs, not all dancers have the necessary conditions, and spaces for promotion in the media aren’t enough, nor specialized and committed criticism of these expressions of art.

It’s necessary to establish a climate that fosters permanent dialogue on this subject, because dance will never be a static art, a museum object.

There is an audience for scenic folk dance, they come, mostly from the very founders (that would be another interesting topic: how scenic practices have influenced popular practices), there are unique approaches to tradition (companies in the provinces are an example), and the teachings are more than valid today.

The paths and challenges posed by folklore must still concern and occupy the creators of the dance. Folk dance for the stage should not be taken as a folkloric stamp: it has to be at the front of national choreographic creation.

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Dancers from Nine Countries Close Alicia Alonso Festival in Cuba

Havana, Nov. 7 (Prensa Latina) The 25th Alicia Alonso International Ballet Festival of Havana is now history after closing with two performances featuring dancers from nine countries.

Cuban dancers, Viengsay Valdes and Osiel Gouneo, performed in the classic Don Quixote at the National Theater accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra directed by Giovanni Duarte.

Shortly after the performance, the closing ceremony began at the Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro in Havana with a performance of Piazzolla tango, allowing Argentine dancers an opportunity to exhibit this sensual art.

The premiere in Cuba of 'Cigne', by Proietto as a choreographer and the performance of Cuban Daniela Gomez in 'The Dying Swan' was one of the strongest works in the event.

The first dancer of the Uruguayan National Ballet, Maria Ricetto, played a sublime Juliet in a successful version by Kenneth Macmillan of Shakespeare's piece 'Romeo and Juliet'; while Hyemin Hwang and Dontak Lee, of the South Korean Universal Ballet, elegantly illustrated a folk tale from their country.

Venezuelan Mary Carmen Catoya, of the Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, danced at the premiere of 'The Dance Begins with Your Steps', choreographed by Russian, Vladimir Issaev, and which was especially created to pay a tribute to Cuban prima ballerina assoluta, Alicia Alonso.

Performances took place in 3 theaters in Havana over the 10 days of the festival, one of the oldest in the world.

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Salsa and Casino during November in Cuba

Havana, Oct 26 (Prensa Latina) Over 700 dance lovers around the world will attend the international meeting ''Baila en Cuba'' (Dance in Cuba), which will take place in Havana from November 20 to 26, according to the organizers.

This time, they will pay tribute to danzon dance, considered on this island as a 'genuine expression of Cuban identity', the organizers said.

Baila en Cuba will have a comprehensive program consisting of dance classes to teach different genres of popular music, and concerts of prestigious orchestras that make casino and salsa.

The event will take place in other places besides the capital. One of the venues will be Varadero, famous beach area at the western province of Matanzas.

The headquarters of the teaching program will be the National School of Art in Havana. The concerts will take place at the Benny More Salon Rosado de la Tropical.

This annual event started 11 years ago and brings together casino dancers and dance academies from Europe and the United States.

According to the organizers, the cultural tourism program of Baila en Cuba is one of the main attractions for European visitors.

Although there are more than 200 salsa meetings in the world, the Cuban meeting attracts many people thanks to its organization, which takes into account the different dance skills of the participants.

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International Ballet Festival around the corner

Havana’s Grand Theater Alicia Alonso and the National and Mella Theaters are ready for the 25th International Ballet Festival set for Oct 28th/Nov 6th in the Cuban capital.

Dance Americana is coming from the United States to perform on October 29th and 30th  at the National Theater. Artistically directed by New York City Ballet soloist dancer and choreographer in residence, Justin Peck, Dance America also includes other outstanding figures, such as New York City ballet principals Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar. In creases, Furiant, and Rodeo: four dance episodes make up the company’s repertoire for the important Havana dance extravaganza.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens is also scheduled to perform at the National Theater on November 1st with the piece Black Milk, bringing some of its most important dancers, such as Marcin Kaczorowski, Jeremy Raia, Andrew Wright, Jeremy Rivera and Hervé Courtain.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens was founded in Montreal, Canada, in 1957, by Ludmila Chiriaeff, one of the northern country’s most relevant personalities with the aim of showing the audience a repertoire based on the different forms of classical dance. The Nov 1st recital at the National Theater also includes performances by dancers from the Royal Dutch Ballet, the New York City Ballet, the National Ballet of Mongolia, and Cuba is bringing representatives from the Cuban National Ballet, and the Irene Rodríguez Company and Acosta Danza.

Buenos Aires Ballet has also been invited to the National to dance on Nov 4/5 with Sueños en fado, Rapsodia, Eclipse, Tangata and Bastones Dorados, under the direction of Federico Fernández, and the performance of important Argentine dancers.Paris Opera Ballet dancers are also set to perform from Oct 28th/Nov 6th at the ballet festival. Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote and La fille mal gardée are some of the classics scheduled to be staged at Mella and National Theater and Havana’s Grand Theater Alicia Alonso.

Edited by Damian Donestevez

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Danza Callejera Festival soon

The 21st International Festival of Dance in Urban Landscapes: “Old Havana. City in Motion” will be inaugurated on April 6 (9:00 pm), on Calle de Madera of the Plaza de Armas, with the premiere of Andares, the most recent creation of dancer Isabel Bustos, who retakes here some of her previous choreographies, now enriched, and which tries to be a tour around the national culture and identity.  

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Acosta Danza Company to Debut in April

Acosta Danza Company will debut next April at Havana's Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, with the season Acosta Danza Premiere.

In a press conference at Gran Teatro de La Habana, the awarded Cuban dancer, now director of this company, referred to the program that harmonizes two dance styles, classic and contemporary ballet.  

He explained that on April 8, 9, 10, 12 and 13 will be performed a contemporary selection integrated by pieces like Alrededor no hay nada, about poems by Joaquín Sabina and Vinícius de Moraes with choreography of Spanish Goyo Montero; Fauno, music by Claude Debussy; EL cruce sobre el Niágara, choreography premiered by Danza Contemporánea de Cuba in 1987; De punta a cabo, by Cuban Alexis Fernández (Maca) and Carlos Acosta’s version of Carmen, which the Royal Ballet premiered last year.

On the other part, on April 16 and 17 will be the classic debut of Acosta Danza under Carlos’ artistic direction with a proposal that obtained the Laurence Olivier Prize in 2006. This selection is made up by several pas de deux, such as Swan Lake second act, La Sylphide, Carmen and Winter Dreams. Other pieces will be Dying Swan, Diana and Actaeon, End of time, A Buenos Aires, Je ne Regrette Rien, Majísimo, Les Bourgeois and the world premiere of Anadromous, by choreographer Raúl Reinoso.

For Carlos Acosta, the fact of planning and then materializinz this company is more than a dream come true. “I would like the Cuban people to be my substantial public during my last years on stage”. With this expression Acosta ratifies that he will continue dancing, now with his company. Talking about it, the artist expresses his intention to break with dance schemes and to create a spontaneous marriage of the contemporary with the classic.  "Now I’m doing a transition, putting aside the classic repertoire career and exploring other sides."

According to Carlos, his wishes are that Acosta Danza achieves its own style and identity, to contribute to the development of dance in the Island and to create links between Cuban and foreign choreographers.

A national tour is among the company’s objectives, about what he commented: “shows like this don’t get the rest of the country most of the times”.

With a provisional seat at Línea and 4th Streets, in Vedado, Havana, Acosta Danza restlessly prepares (eight hours a day) the debut; compositions that promise that the public will enjoy an emerging dance movement in the country.

Translation: Liana Fleitas (Cubarte)

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