Among the many, not always justified, attributes that Cubans represent to the world, perhaps the most prevalent are: we are good musicians, we have an enviable sense of humor and, of course, we know dance.
While this is true as a general rule for almost all inhabitants of the archipelago, it is also true that these "labels" can be more narrowly confined to the most popular manifestations of our culture. It is evident that Cuba is obviously deeper, more grounded in reflection, in developed language, in metaphor, and even in virtuosity.
To talk about dance, we have several companies with notable results and diverse artistic concerns ranging from classical ballet to the purely traditional. In this scenario, one especially stands out, not only because of its solid work sustained over several decades, but because they constitute a sort of vanguard vested with the most current dance codes. I refer to the Contemporary Dance Company of Cuba, a group focused on artistic creation as something renovating, multiple and humane.
Miguel Iglesias, its general director for the past 23 years, has been internationally endorsed through the staging of works hailed as milestones of national dance. A modest man, talkative, serious about undertaking projects, Iglesias agreed to share with CubaPLUS a piece of his personal history at the helm of this company.
How did Miguel Iglesias arrive at Danza Contemporanea de Cuba?
I arrived almost involuntarily. In the 1980s I was a young artist who wanted to give my all to the stage; I was not at all interested in directing.
One fine day the then Deputy Minister of Culture Marcia Leyseca proposed that I direct the company, then named National Dance of Cuba.
I accepted a position I felt was temporary, perhaps a new experience in my career, but with the passage of time it became my life.
Do you know what happened?
From outside things looked one way, not so difficult, but once inside, I realized that leadership is exciting and complex and, imperceptibly, despite it being a collective effort, it becomes something personal. It has been 23 years and I confess that this company is my life, as part of me as my health, my thoughts or my family.
I understand that passion is echoed by your family.
Yes. I am fortunate to share my work with my children. In fact, and not because he is my son, Julio Cesar Iglesias is one of our most talented young choreographers, including something of a rebel, and that gives me satisfaction, because confronting stereotypes demonstrates that I have thought him to think, to have his own criteria and know how to defend them.
I know this is also a principle for the company, and perhaps this trait best defines it inside and outside of Cuba.
That's right. Contemporary Dance is a company where everything goes. We analyze its purpose every day; renovate it toward the continuing concerns of human beings. The repertoire is not conceived of as established, moreover, the true classics are only known through time, and it is paradoxical for contemporaries to wait for that decision.
Of course, there are works that for their impact and aesthetic scope and impact as much in the public as among critics remain in the repertoire, but what is most interesting is the renovation, active and constant creation.
That distinguishes us, both inside and outside Cuba, we are a group for which diversity and openness are principles.
And how do you incorporate the new generation of dancers?
Contemporary Dance has been nurtured over the past years by graduates of the art schools, both the ISA Superior Institute and the ENA (National School). It has been a positive experience, not only do they show great interest and motivation, but they grow professionally with the rigour of daily work, access to higher levels of information and of course, the interchange with dancers and choreographers from around the world.
This is also a good time for youthful choreographic creation. Take Jorge Céspedes and Osnel Delgado, the same Julio Cesar who we already spoke about, they are creators eager to do and are owners of the generational discourse. Of course, outside our company, the situation is different. I am very tied to the system of instruction in the arts, not only with the ENA and ISA, but different schools in the country, and I have the view that the dancer must teach himself to think. It is not enough to have perfect movement and knowledge of the mechanics of the human body; it is vital to feed your thinking, to find the inner world to express as an artist, even if it's not exactly what the teacher wants. Dance is a physical art, but its origin, its essence, is undeniably spiritual.
Contemporary Dance is close to 50 years old. In your opinion, who have been the choreographers who have made the greatest mark on the work of this group?
We must understand that half century by periods. That first generation led by Ramiro Guerra had big names like himself, Eduardo Rivero, Arnaldo Patterson, Gerardo Lastra, the American Lorna Burdsall and Elfrida Mahler, as well as other choreographers from Latin America and Europe. Later, and with me as a director, working with the Dutch choreographer Jan Linkens was very important, the influence of Compas, a work we assembled with him was a tremendous success and very important for the company. Other foreign choreographers have left valuable experiences: Giovanni Di Cicco, Kenneth Kvamstrom, Luca Bruni, Anna Laguna, Samir Akika. .. and, immodest as it sounds, I must say they affirmed it was a "pleasure" to work with us.
What can you say about the Canadian reception by the public and critics?
We presented in the Canadian Art Center in Ottawa and at Toronto's Harbour Front. In both cities the audience was very warm. We had a long program, with several recent works and others, considered classics, like Sulkary and Eduardo Rivero. At the end of each presentation the applause was very intense. It was exciting. In addition, I had an experience on this trip with the professionalism of the technicians. On one occasion, analyzing the lights and background in which there should be a certain tone of blue, we said "this is good," but one of them told us, gently, that we could adjust it a little more, they always aspire to perfection. That attitude was for me a little lesson In rigor.
We are concentrating on two new projects, both of our choreographers, and throughout the year we have tours of several places in Europe, and some provinces in Cuba.
In addition the 50 anniversary of the company, in 2009, is tremendously absorbing us. This will be the Year of Contemporary Dance of Cuba. To celebrate, we are preparing a comprehensive program to present in London and Havana. 2009 will be a special year, intense, productive and, why not? deserved.