Dancing in Cuba is a pleasure. Dance is inscribed in the genetic code of Cubans as a legacy of the fusion between African and Spanish culture. We dance for everything, all the time. It’s our real universal language. They say that we even walk with a “special rhythm”.
In this Caribbean archipelago where dancing is in people’s nature, PanamericanWorld brings you the stories of several world-renowned institutions, such as the National Ballet of Cuba and more recent companies that enjoy international prestige today.
The National Ballet of Cuba
This is one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world. Founded in 1948 by Alicia Alonso, Fernando and Alberto Alonso, the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) has showcased the best of Cuban art in Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States, Asia, Africa and Europe.
For seven decades, the company was led by Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Alicia Alonso, until her death in 2019, when another great Cuban dancer, Viengsay Valdés, took over its direction.
Since 2008, the company is seen as part of the “Cultural Heritage of the Nation” and recognized as “the maximum expression of the Cuban ballet school, which has achieved its own physiognomy and where the theatrical dance tradition merges with the essential features of the National Culture”.
The best dancers in Cuba have gone through its ranks. The so-called “Four Jewels of Cuban Ballet” (Loipa Araújo, Josefina Méndez, Mirta Plá and Aurora Bosch) shone for decades with the BNC. Today, the BNC continues to have a solid body of dancers, where the main dancers Sadaise Arencibia, Anette Delgado, Grettel Morejón, Dani Hernández and Rafael Qenedit stand out.
Danza Contemporánea de Cuba
The company has been active for six decades. Founded by maestro Ramiro Guerra, great Cuban dancers and choreographers have been part of its squad, all National Dance Awardees, such as Santiago Alfonso, Eduardo Rivero, Rosario Cárdenas and its current director, Miguel Iglesias.
Contemporary Dance of Cuba has staged performances in more than 90 countries of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. In addition, it has participated in the most prestigious festivals on the planet.
Its performances have been praised by important dance figures, such as Antonio Gades, Cristina Hoyos and Mikhail Barishnikov.
Directed for 30 years by maestro Iglesias, the company remains committed to Cuban dance, incorporating trained and talented dancers, and a smooth blend between the most contemporary trends in the world and the best of Cuban dance.
Related Article: Ten personalities who have enriched Afro-Cuban culture
Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba
Created in 1991 by Lizt Alfonso, this company has performed in prestigious venues, such as the City Center (New York) and the New Victory Theater (Broadway), the Shanghai Oriental Art Center (China), the Oude Luxor Theater in Rotterdam (Netherlands) and the Thalia in Hamburg (Germany), the Cairo Opera House (Egypt), the Place de Arts in Montreal, the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the Grand Theatre of Quebec (Canada).
Among its most acclaimed shows are Fuerza y Compás, Elementos, Alas, Vida, Amigas, and ¡Cuba vibra! Performed with live music, all of these performances include an extraordinary fusion of ballet, contemporary dance, flamenco, Cuban and Afro-Cuban popular dances.
Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba was the first Cuban dance group to perform at the Latin Grammy Awards, in 2015, featuring the musical theme “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias, Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona.
Among its awards, we can highlight the International Spotlight Award by the USA President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (2016), presented at the White House by Michelle Obama.
PanamericanWorld visited the company’s headquarters in 2018 and we were able to chat with master dancer Lizt Alfonso. She assured us that she was happy to teach something valuable to the more than 1200 children who come through the company each year. “That makes me feel like a Life Teacher”, she confessed.
Carlos Acosta is regarded as one of the greatest dancers of all time. After his retirement from the stage, the former principal dancer of the Royal Ballet of London decided to create his own company. He called it Acosta Danza. Five years after that initial step, his group has established itself as one of the most innovative of Cuba’s contemporary dance scene.
Acosta Danza allows you to see Dance in Cuba at its best. There are no distinctions within the dance corps. There is no first or principal dancer as in most international companies, so everyone gets a chance to embody different characters. The most talented and capable gets the most important role.
Acosta has managed to bring together talented dancers from art schools and, with the support of teachers and choreographers, the company has been training them. The result of this process has been spectacular. Each presentation of Acosta Danza blends different styles, from classical ballet to more contemporary choreographies.
Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba
For almost six decades, this group has contributed to the preservation of Afro-Cuban dance and Cuban musical roots. One of its founders was the outstanding ethnologist, writer and poet Rogelio Martínez Furé, and its first-generation artists included dancers and singers Lázaro Ross, Nieves Fresneda and Zenaida Armenteros.
The Ensemble has performed on different stages around Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. For Dr. Isabel Monal, a renowned Cuban intellectual, this company “contributes to protecting and perpetuating a beautiful legacy, while achieving creative and enriching artistic performances and exalting Cuban art abroad, which allows an entire nation to recognize itself more fully. It also contributes to enhancing social consciousness and cohesion, while transmitting to the new generations true wealth; the kind that can be treasured and developed.”