The Cuban capital city hosts in April the most important dance event in the country: Old Havana: A Moving CityInternational Festival of Dance in Urban Sceneries. Every year this space gathers tens of national and international companies and it takes place in streets, squares and parks of the oldest side of the city, which has been declared Mankind Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The event, organized by Danza Teatro Retazos Company and the City Historian’s Office, sponsored by Havana Theater Center, celebrated this year its 20th anniversary. According to its founder, Isabel Bustos, 2012 National Dance Award, the project was initially followed by just a small group of people, but the number of artists and viewers has gone up over the years and it presently stands as the greatest crowd-puller dance event in Cuba.
At the very beginning, the Museum House that was named after prestigious Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamin was the head office of the Organizing Committee, but years later this property was not enough. Nowadays, Las Carolinas, the present seat of Retazos, is the epicenter of the activities, although most of the performances are not held there. Several institutions are currently working on the Festival: nine museum houses managed by the City Historian’s Office, National Museum of Fine Arts, Dance Center, Cuban Art Factory and the Visual Arts Development Center.
The twentieth edition of the event was a great party. Throughout the Festival, workshops were given in the morning, free registration for all people interested. A dozen of topics were debated in this edition, including Improvisation and Composition in Real Time, Tribal Belly Dance, Learning to Manage Chi Energy in our Daily Life and Body Harmony with Relaxation Techniques. Likewise, the most outstanding professors gave magisterial lessons on their respective choreographic styles.
In the afternoons, the sound of Chinese trumpet and drums announced the beginning of the party. People on stilts were guiding the public through different spaces where the performances were taking place and, accompanied by the rhythm of the Cuban conga, professional dancers and novices crowded the street stages. Multiple shows were carried out in different places until the cannon shot at nine o’clock, which announced the beginning of the show at Las Carolinas, the most popular area.
Over 60 companies, from some fifteen European and American countries, showed the diversity of dance poetics that exist within a country. Old Havana: A Moving City –a member of the Dancing Cities International Circuit since 1999, a network made up of European and Latin American cities– brought together different styles, acclaimed creators and students.
This time round, the Colombian delegation stood out among the largest ones, along with Mexico’s. Only two artists came from the South American country last year: Jhon Fandiño and Gabriela Pardo, members of Kalus Danza, who now came back with more friends.
“Cuba is charming, it’s impossible not to come back. Back in 2014 we were amazed by the people, spaces, dance everywhere”, Pardo says. On the other hand, Fandiño explains that, since the Organizing Committee accepted performance, contemporary dance and folklore, he decided to summon several Colombian projects. “There is great talent in my country and one of Kalus Danza’s objectives is precisely focused on the promotion of our country as a territory of art and peace. Dancing is what really matters and the more people, the more dance”, he pointed out.
Along with creators from Argentina, Germany, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Spain, Puerto Rico, France, Italy, Norway and Sweden, this was the first time for three North American groups: Company E, Bistoury INC and Peggy Choy. Undoubtedly, the scenario between Cuba and the United States since December 17th, 2014, has boosted the cultural bridge between both nations.
Company E was in Cuba after three years of failed attempts. Francisco Campos Lopez, the Chilean audiovisual producer that accompanied the group, detailed that they not only came to show their work, but to learn what professionals do on the Island nation. “Establishing an exchange with the Cuban artists and public, that was the idea. We’re going to produce a documentary on the tour and film promotional videos in characteristic places of Havana. People living abroad have a very superficial idea of Cuba. They know nothing about the cultural and architectural richness of the Island. We want to reflect that reality in our work and show those experiences and the beauty of Cuba”, he underlined.
This was the first edition of the event that included a theoretical space to analyze movement arts, which was attended by researchers, critics and students. Such matters as training technique, artistic research, dance education, and choreographic writing, were intensely debated during the sessions.
Old Havana: A Moving City, beyond an event dedicated to dance, is a wonderful festival of arts that comprises theater, living statues, visual arts and music. The organizers are already planning the 2016 edition, which will flood the streets of Old Havana with dance and music.
Texto y fotos de Nadia Herrada Hidalgo. PanamericanWorld.Havana