More Than Ballet

November 4, 2008

Alicia Alonso and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba may hold centerstage at the Festival and in the hearts of the Cuban people, but across town an exciting young company is raising the profile of modern dance in Cuba: Compania Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, directed by Miguel Iglesias Ferrer. On Friday (October 31), we watched a run-through of quite an ambitious production of Carmina Burana. Choreographed for 40 dancers by 28-year old company member, George Céspedes, Carmina will travel to Mexico City November 19-20, where the company will be joined by guest artists Joel Carreño, Rasta Thomas, Herman Cornejo, and Anette Delgado. That’s quite a line-up for a production by an unknown young choreographer.

Céspedes alternates sections of quick arm and hand gestures that are timed to each downbeat of the dramatic music, with thundering surges of dancers that charge toward each other across the stage. He is not easily satisfied. Complimented on the way he moved such a large group of dancers in space, he made it clear that he is not yet happy with the finale. The ending we saw was tacked on at the last minute for this studio showing.

Céspedes’ Carmina is an intense piece lasting more than an hour, and the dancers clearly put everything they had into this rehearsal—their opportunity to be seen for the first time by critics and dance insiders from outside Cuba. This is quite a passionate enterprise—impossible not to get pulled along.