We’re in for a treat again. Malpaso Dance Company, hailing from the warmer climes of Cuba, is returning to the Island after their superlative performance last summer.
David White, artistic director and executive producer of the Yard, has brought the company here a number of times, starting just a few years after it was founded in 2012. He is a strong advocate for a number of reasons. One is how the company is growing internally. In addition to pieces by resident choreographer and artistic director Osnel Delgado and commissions by guest artists, White feels Malpaso’s strength comes from developing the choreographic integrity of dancers within the company. In fact, two of the three pieces on tap for us were created by company members. There is “Cenizas” (Ashes) by Beatriz Garcia, who was one of the first company members to create a work on Malpaso, and Daileidys Carrazana’s “Duo de la Escoba — Revisited” (Broom Duet).
Another impetus for White’s support is the quality of the dancers. “The company has some of the most extraordinary dancers on the planet, and they are a kind of a window into the exceptional educational system that Cuba has for developing them,” White says. “It has a lot to do with a concentrated tracking focus.”
Dancers are grounded in rigorous technique when young, and then tracked into ballet or modern dance.
“It is that root training that feeds both styles, so that they have an incredible technical capacity to do almost everything,” he says. “When you look at the photographs on the Malpaso posters, their bodies are so fluid. It’s not a rigid technique, or something that you would often see in ballet companies, where if you ask them to do something offroad in terms of movement vocabularies, you see the awkwardness immediately.”
White marvels at the dancers’ ability to seamlessly perform works by guest choreographers. “Their ability to adjust, to absorb, to replicate without that awkwardness is I think fairly unique. When you see these works by other choreographers, you feel like you’re watching the works of the choreographer, not just the dancers. That’s a really hard thing to do with repertory companies. You often get a sameness across the board. I admire that.”
We will get to see the dancers’ ability to seamlessly perform a choreographer’s style in the full company piece “Elemental” by Robyn Mineko Williams, seen here last summer. White explains the reason for the encore: “First, it’s good to see pieces a second time, and secondly, there will be a more consolidated year-round audience. For me, that is an important barometer, how we are addressing the year-round audience. Because of the five-car pileup schedule in the summer, we don’t really have the ability to connect deeply with the community.”
Attention to the community is central to the Yard’s work, and White nurtures the ties in a number of ways. With Malpaso, he says, “It’s great that we have them here for the fifth time in six or seven years. I think it’s become meaningful to the Island community. The first time we had them there, was this upsurge of these people who had been to Cuba, and, through their tours, some of them had seen Malpaso. Given that most of what we bring to the Island is unknown, there was a great deal of familiarity already, and that galvanized the audience in the first place.”
But the Yard’s connection to the community goes way beyond public performances, through its Making It endeavors. As they do with other companies that come during the academic year, Malpaso will be conducting workshops and a lecture demonstration in Island schools. And there will be something for the adult community as well, although the details have yet to be worked out.
“Companies in the wintertime, like Malpaso, are calculated to be an integral part of Making It. There is always some means of deeper exposure,” White says. “The idea of how artists can become part of the community, and for a rural community a lot of what I think about is the issue of familiarity. An artist or company one time here, that’s an event, right? A second time you establish a certain familiarity. And then a third time and beyond you really establish a relationship. There’s enough knowledge shared that might not have been there three times before, but now there is ownership by the year-round community. That’s where we get our legitimacy.”
While Malpaso will thrill us with their superior dancing, as White says, their presence is just part of the Yard’s larger effort.
“There are two things at work. We are building audiences; we’re building a context with these selected artists. We’re also supporting the philosophy that greater familiarity in a rural community is really important. The idea that people will come back. To root this person-to-person relationship in an isolated community, that this return, repetition, is important in the learning process, whether you’re a kid or an adult.”
Malpaso will perform on March 4 at 7 pm at the PAC. Tickets: $25 adults, $15 seniors, students, and military; $5 children under 12. Member and Behind the Counter discounts apply. See dancetheyard.org/thewinteryard for more information and tickets. The Making It community program for Malpaso will be announced in the newspaper.