CriticalDance Forum

Politics and Dance
Page 9 of 9

Author:  Toba Singer [ Thu May 19, 2005 1:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Azlan wrote:
Alonso's ex-husband also never worked again in Cuba under the new regime. It cuts both ways...

Not sure what you mean, here, Azlan. Do you mean that he stopped performing? If that is so, it was in order to spearhead the establishment of Cubanacan--the system of national, curriculum-based dance schools throughout Cuba, which prepared many of the dancers we praise here daily for the Ballet Nacional and other stellar companies. He is regarded as one of the foremost teachers of the post-revolutionary period. Carlos Acosta, in an interview I conducted with him recently, said that Fernando taught turns by offering a physics lesson--the scientific approach--rejecting mystique. According to Laura Alonso, it was Fernando to whom Fidel said, "Tell me how much you need to fund this company and school--just make sure they include dancers from the entire Western Hemisphere!." When Fernando presented Fidel with a figure, Fidel recommended to the revolutionary government that they double it and they did. Where is the private donor who doubles a figure without stipulating that matching funds be garnered from small, individual donors to artificially inflate his or her private donation?

Author:  trina [ Tue May 31, 2005 12:51 pm ]
Post subject: 

Along the lines of politics in dance, specifically as it pertains to Cuba, I just read an interesting book. The title is "Dancing with Cuba" , written by Alma Guillermprieto. Ms. G. is Mexican, lived and danced in New York City, studying at the Graham and Cunningham schools, and danced with Twyla Tharp when she was just getting started in the early 1970's. Her insights and experiences of the modern dance scene in New York at this time are alternately pithy, harrowing and hilarious. Ms. G. then was invited to teach modern dance in Cuba, at the National School of Dance. Her traumatic experiences as a somewhat naive and novice teacher, a basically apolitical person thrust into the hotbed of the Castro regime, and the emotional turmoil of finding her identity, as a woman and artist in a cultural cauldron of a tumultous Latin-American country, all provide for fascinating reading. As a personal footnote, she mentions her friend and mentor, Sandra Neels, who was an early Cunningham dancer, who was subsequently a teacher of mine at Harvard Summer school mannnny years ago! Small world. Anyway, anyone interested in modern dance, politics in art and dance, female identity and artistic "coming of age" in a charged political atmosphere should check out this book. I recommend!! :lol:

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Jun 01, 2005 12:50 am ]
Post subject: 

That sounds very interesting, trina. Can you let us have the publisher and date of publication to help track it down, please?

While we hear a great deal about ballet in Cuba, there is little publicity for modern dance there. In Carlos Acosta's show "Tocororo", his corps was Danza Contemporanea from Cuba. In keeping with the production, they performed in a jazz/show biz style, so it was not possible to assess how they would fare with a modern dance rep. But, boy oh boy! Could they dance.

Author:  trina [ Wed Jun 01, 2005 9:16 am ]
Post subject: 

The above book is published by Vintage Books, Random House, New York. Date is 2004 and 2005. (two editions? Not clear). I just finished the book last night. This book really is an unusual exploration of art and politics, and Ms. Guillermoprieto has some distinctly unflattering things to say about Castro and the revolution, specifically the regime's attitude towards art and artists, which in her opinion seem QUITE negative. The first chapter, which outline her experiences as a budding dancer in New York City, is world-class writing. Her description of Twyla Tharp alone is worth the price of the book. :lol:

Author:  salzberg [ Wed Jun 01, 2005 1:55 pm ]
Post subject: 

While we hear a great deal about ballet in Cuba, there is little publicity for modern dance there.

I wonder if this is typical of totalitarian regimes, as opposed to democratic ones.

Author:  trina [ Wed Jun 01, 2005 10:53 pm ]
Post subject: 

Interestingly, in this book, Ms. G mentions that ballet has a very high status in Cuba, and gets goverment support. Although it's still a paltry amount, and anyone who has see the ballet from Cuba knows that their costume budget, for example, appears meager. But the dancing is gorgeous, no? Modern dance on the other hand, along with other arts/artists, is considered "decadent" and "bourgeouis" by the regime. Similar to attitudes in the Soviet and Soviet bloc countries, any art that does not consciously flatter or directly reflect the political attitudes of the powers that be, are harrassed or intimidated, almost out of existence. Wasn't there a movie a few years back on this topic, called "Before Night Falls, or "When Night Falls" about a Cuban poet who was jailed. I think it dealt with this same topic.

Author:  Toba Singer [ Fri Jun 03, 2005 12:06 pm ]
Post subject: 

I read the Guillermoprieto book. While the author is adept at turning a phrase, especially those that involve navel-gazing at her own self-proclaimed petty-bourgeois and neurotic ideation, the content is vacuous to me, much like what she has written in the New Yorker on the subject of Latin America. I am thinking here about a particularly patronizing New Yorker piece on maids or "empleadas" in Mexico, circa 1994. It is sad that the embargo against Cuba has isolated us so much from what really happens there. I suggest that sponsor a tour of Cuba, so that everyone can see all at the same time the tremendous esteem in which dance--in all its forms--is held in Cuba. There is an unfinished documentary on Alicia Alonso, called "Alicia," made about 20 years ago by some dancers and dance afficionados in Chicago. It shows the commitment of Cubanacan to Modern Dance, and Yoruba-inspired folkloric dance. There is a scene in it, that has some of the music that Carlos used in "Tocororo." It is a Yoruba chant, and dockworkers in hardhats are singing it, as they dance Yoruba rhythms on their lunch break. Sorry, but if that's totalitarian, sign me up, because in all my years of working at industrial jobs, I never once saw time given over by so-called "democratic" factory bosses to allow working men and women to dance to the indigenous rhythms of their ancestors. I believe that there is an East Bay (San Francisco Bay Area) Cuba travel agency that sponsors dance and music tours of Cuba. I urge you to take the tour, and then measure what you see in Cuba against Ms. Guillermoprieto's claims about Cuba's "stance" that dance forms other than ballet are "decadent." It is possible that Ms. Guillermoprieto was surrounded by non-Cuban (and a few Cuban) Stalinists, who took their socialist realist views on art to Cuba with them, but these views were explicitly rejected by the revolutionary wing of the Cuban government, led by Fidel and Che. The debates were lively and rich, and continue today. You have to ask yourself why it is that Cubans like Acosta and others are so accomplished, creative and futuristic in their thinking. They are so different than the stolid exponents of the Soviet art "theory." To lump them into one convenient "totalitarian" pariah group is a facile and dismissive exercise that cheats us of Cuba's prodigious contribution to world art. The real totalitarians are those who bar the masses of people in the United States from going to Cuba to see it for ourselves as it really is :!:

Author:  trina [ Sun Jun 05, 2005 12:50 pm ]
Post subject: 

I should clarify that what Ms. G. wrote was admittedly events that happened over thirty years. The happenings in the book were not current. And yes, it is one person's subjective account, not a political treatise. Her account of any political conversations vis a vis "the position of modern dance in Cuba" in the book are gleaned primarily from conversations with her dance students, most of whom were poor teenagers who desperately wanted to fashion a career in modern dance. They were not sophisticated party appartchiks, Eastern bloc, Soviet bloc or any othe bloc. And by the way, yes, I would LOVE to make an artisitc pilgrimmage to Cuba, to see for myself, first-hand, what the real deal is there. :lol: Anyone willing to finance? :wink:

Author:  Toba Singer [ Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:55 am ]
Post subject: 

The trips are not very expensive. I saw one advertised yesterday at a cafe in San Francisco called Cafe Cubano. There are many creative ways to finance it. Ask your local paper if they will pay you for an article on Cuban dance which you'll file when you return. Throw a fundraising party at a venue people would pay to come to. Hold a report back event at a local community center or church, and raffle off mementos from Cuba, etc., send out a fundraising letter to friends, family and the dance community.

Cuban politics may seem extraneous to Guillermoprieto's experience and that of her students, but in spite of what is said about Cuba being a monolith, the reality is that there are strong countervailing political currents in Cuba within the revolution. It appears that even though Guillermoprieto was out of touch with those discussions, their repercussions were felt by her. I am thinking especially of her description of a dance administrator from New York (whose name she mentions, but I cannot remember), who arrogated quite a bit of authority in the early days--and who represented nobody in Cuba but herself. It seemed lopsided and shortsighted to present that woman's dogmatism as the imprimatur of revolutionary Cuba on dance. Guillermoprieto used a journalistic sleight of hand throughout the book--where she admitted to presenting half truths--but then she finessed them into viable suppositions. Somehow, she never seemed to get around to the other half of the truth, leaving her readers with her sensationalized account and little substance about what was happening in dance during those times when her sensibilities WEREN'T being violated. :roll:

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jun 07, 2005 4:00 pm ]
Post subject: 

A few posts above I wrote that we didn't hear much about contemporary dance in Cuba. The fault could lie with poor reporting, of course, rather than a dearth of material on the ground. Here are some links from around the web:

I found this article particularly useful:

Contemporary Dance in Cuba Now
By Abigail Levine

Dance has essential meaning in Cuba, as a part of popular culture, social, religious and family life, and as a historically significant art form. Dance is everywhere and everyone dances. I returned to Cuba in the fall of 2001, four years after taking an Afro-Cuban dance workshop in Santiago de Cuba in 1997. I have lived and worked in Havana as a dancer and choreographer for the last two years:

There is more about the original company who provided the dancers for "Tocororo", with some strong images: ... /cuba.html

Sounds like a scene worth seeing.

Trina mentioned that the ballet looked under-resourced. In considering funding for the arts in Cuba, it always seems a near-miracle that they can afford anything. A reminder from the latest CIA factbook:

USA, GDP - per capita: $40,100 (2004 est.)

Cuba, GDP - per capita: $3,000 (2004 est.)

ie a ratio of 13:1

Author:  kurinuku [ Fri Sep 29, 2006 5:23 am ]
Post subject: 

Baghdad ballet
by JOHN O'MAHONY for the Guardian
published: September 28, 2006

Forsythe is not the first to attempt to employ dance in the service of political imperatives. This accolade goes to pioneers such as Kurt Jooss, whose Green Table set the anti-war standard back in 1932, and groups such as the Workers' Dance League in the 1930s, whose slogan blared: "Dance is a weapon in the revolutionary class struggle." More recently, there seems to have been a deluge of politically committed works: from Bill T Jones's Still/Here in 1994 on the Aids epidemic, to Promethean Fire, Paul Taylor's musing on 9/11, as well as his most recent piece about Bush and his inner circle, Banquet of Vultures.

In the UK, we have had Siobhan Davies' environmental piece Endangered Species, created during a trip to Antarctica, the social and sexual politics of Lloyd Newson's DV8 Physical Theatre, and Darshan Singh Bhuller's Planted Seeds, a tale of love and death set during the war in Bosnia.

Author:  EsperanzaTM [ Fri Dec 08, 2006 5:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Spain

In Spain we have a very young democracy, totalitarian Franco, died in 1975, Dance has also essential meaning since always, thanks to enormous dance expressions as Bolera School, Jota Aragonesa, Danzas Vascas, Flamenco… etc. , becoming more and more popular.

For classical ballet, counting greatest ballet dancers all over the world : ABT, NYCB, SFB, Royal Ballet, Paris Opera, Cullberg Ballet, Forsythe …, the country does not manage to get a regular Ballet Company allowing big ballet dancers Diaspora to come back, and paradox is that spanish dancers ask the government to act, and the private institutions to stop inviting old Ballet companies (Ballet de Moldavia, Ballet de Odessa.., among others), which make loosing audience, and bad hopes for Diaspora of dancers abroad. See (in spanish) :
More than 31 600 visitors !

For contemporary dance, Gelabert, Oller and Duato are the big names, but of course, always behind flamenco big names.
Small company like Increpacion in Barcelona, were able mixing flamenco to contemporary, and win first prize in Madrid Certamen de Coreografia, with a piece to critics social and sexual conditions of Spanish women often traumatic “Wad Ras” name of the prison for womn in Barcelona…

Author:  salzberg [ Sat Dec 09, 2006 10:43 am ]
Post subject: 

Welcome to criticaldance, Esperanza. I look forward to reading more about dance in Spain.

Jeffrey E. Salzberg,
Executive Director
criticaldance Forum

Author:  CarolinaM [ Sun Dec 10, 2006 10:51 am ]
Post subject: 

Welcome Esperanza!

Nice to meet another Spanish ballet lover here :) and also a happy coincidence that you visit the, for me, best Spanish Ballet & Dance web site fotoescena :wink: but you do not post there, do you? :roll:

I saw Wad Ras last saturday for the first time and I liked it very much. It was performed by It dansa (Catherine Allard's) I'm pretty sure you know them :)

Hope to find you again here and there :wink:

Page 9 of 9 All times are UTC - 7 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group