Five dancers, 3 women and two men, relate on the stage and with projected videos. They are in the videos sometimes, walking up and down a staircase, sitting on the Malecón (pier) in La Habana, overlooking the sea, and fighting each other in a car. Sometimes the video projection is a scene from a busy street in La Habana, where Cubans rush shoulder to shoulder. These frantic images and the peaceful ones, watching the waves and the sky, juxtapose with the action on the stage as if in a dream. “Malson” is the name of an hour long dance piece by the Cuban modern dance company DanzAbierta. Malson is Catalán for nightmare, but also can have a double meaning in Spanish. “Mal” is bad or evil, while “son” is a typical Cuban rhythm/musical genre.
DanzAbierta means “Open dance” in Spanish. This is a fitting name for the company, which was established in 1988, by Marianela Boán. From its inception DanzAbierta, considered itself “avant-garde” and within that context, infused different forms of art into its choreography. Malson was choreographed by Susana Pous, a dancer originally from Barcelona, who currently resides in Cuba. In a video clip, Pous explains that her style of choreography is based on improvisation and includes lots of input from the dancers. She will present a theme to the company and they will begin to create together. Therefore, the resulting dance is much more organic and related to each dancer’s body, style and personality:
Malson by DanzAbierta, was performed on March 22, 2018 and Friday March 23, 2018, in Philadelphia, and is part of a larger Cuban Arts Festival at the Annenberg Center Live. The Artistic Adviser and Designer for Malson is Guido Gali, and music and videos are by X Alfonso. General Adviser is Noel Bonilla-Chongo. The phenomenal dancers are: Mailyn Castillo, Lissett Gallego, Diana Collumbié, Gabriel Méndez y Marcel Méndez.
On stage the nimble dancers interact with each other and with a big moveable block. The women wear dresses in black or gray and high heels–note that this is not the contemporary dance of barefeet and leotards, typical of modern dancers in the United States. Much of the music is new and electronic/instrumental, but there are a few traditional Cuban songs with lyrics in Spanish. The movements of the dancers range from salsa steps to more lyrical choreography, as well as sharp and frenetic actions. They cover the entire stage and various levels–from rolling on the floor, to lifts and flips. The choreography is polished yet natural and appears to come from within the dancers, illustrating Pous’ explanation of a collaborative process that brings out the uniqueness of each dancer. Sometimes the dancers are in couples. They also dance in unison or like robots/dolls to represent the struggles within the relationships.
What is most innovative to me is how the choreography relates to the video that is projected on the screen behind the dancers. The dancers seem to interact with themselves and the people and environment on the screen. This creates a tension between the video, dancers and audience. It is not just a pretty backdrop as used in some productions–it is an intrinsic para of the drama and the dance. It creates a visual experience that is interactive. One of my favorite instances was when the camera moved through a Havana street. It was as if the action was taking place in that very street and I was along for the ride. Most poignant and poetric were the scenes on the Malecón, overlooking the ocean.
Running time: 1 hour.
Malson by DanzAbierta goes next to Washington DC, on March 30, 2018. For more information check Susana Pous’ website or DanzAbierta’s Facebook page. For upcoming events at the Annenberg Center Live in Philadelphia, visit their website.