Carlos Acosta’s fledgling project, Acosta Danza, is housed in a
well-appointed Havana storefront where avid fans watch rehearsals
from the street. He has hired both former BNC and Danza Contemporánea artists to create a company of more than 20 exquisite Cuban
dancers, performing a mix of contemporary and classical ballets. So
far, the repertoire includes Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Faun, contemporary
Spanish choreographer Goyo Montero’s Alrededor No Hay Nada,
Acosta’s own Carmen, as well as excerpts from ballets like Swan Lake
and La Sylphide.
MAJOR CONTEMPORARY COLLABORATIONS
The state-subsidized Danza Contemporánea de Cuba is widening its
repertoire by inviting foreign dancemakers like Israeli Itzik Galili,
Colombian-Belgian Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Spanish-born Rafael
Bonachela, while also nurturing homegrown choreographers. Meanwhile, Ronald K. Brown has championed Osnel Delgado’s Malpaso,
which now regularly tours the U.S. featuring works by Delgado,
Brown and Trey McIntyre.
SOME HAVANA HOTSPOTS
Centro de Danza de la Habana: This dilapidated building is home to
several prominent companies, including the theatrical Danza Combi-natoria and the ever avant-garde DanzAbierta, currently directed by
Spaniard Susana Pous.
Danza-Teatro Retazos: Isabel Bustos’ renowned contemporary
troupe enlivens Old Havana with dances spilling out into the street.
Compañía de la Danza Narciso Medina: Located in the crumbling
Favorito Theater (next to a cigar factory), this company and
school are planning to transition into a center for choreographic
Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba: Freshly painted and bursting
with young talent, the school needs new windows, pianos and musical equipment. But that is no deterrent to thousands of children who
audition every year, or to the few eager foreigners allowed to join
their rarefied ranks.
Cubans have recently been celebrating their Spanish roots by presenting more flamenco. Rhythmic intensity drives the powerful unison
work of Lizt Alfonso, the fusion styles of Eduardo Veitía and Irene
Rodríguez Compañía, and the flamenco puro of Compañía Flamenca
ECOS. Enrique Iglesias’ 2014 hit video “Bailando” features flamenco
dancers from Lizt Alfonso.
Myriad smaller groups across the island fill all 15 provinces with
dance. For example, Camagüey in central Cuba, the longtime home of
the esteemed Ballet de Camagüey, also houses the adventurous Ballet
Contemporáneo Endedans. In a move symbolic of the loosening of
diplomatic restrictions, Cuban-American choreographer Pedro Ruiz
was named associate artistic director of Endedans in 2015. Professional
flamenco, salsa, Afro-Cuban and hip-hop dancers also grace the stages
of this midsized metropolis.
On the eastern end of the island, Santiago de Cuba boasts a rich tra-
dition of mixing African, Cuban, Spanish, French Haitian, carnival, caba-
ret, social and theatrical dance forms. In a country of dancers, Santiago
holds special pride of place for its intricate Afro-Cuban dance culture.
Ongoing festivals showcase Cuba’s commitment to innovation in
dance. Havana boasts the Días de la Danza, Habana Vieja: Ciudad en
Movimiento, and International Ballet Festivals, all of which include
foreign dance artists. Cuba’s city by the bay, Matanzas, hosts a biannual
duet festival called Danzandos, highlighting the confident creativity
of Cuba’s well-trained and passionate dancemakers—Esteban Aguilar,
from the dance-centric city of Guantánamo, swept the last Danzandos
festival, winning performance and choreographic awards with his witty
brand of daring physical theater. n
Suki John, associate professor of dance at Texas Christian University,
is the founder of CubanArtsMatch.com and choreographer of Havana
For more information on
dance in Cuba and cultural
arts exchanges, visit the
Copperbridge Foundation at
Osnel Delgado (right)
collaborating with American
dancer Jordan Reinwald