Sitting behind Fernando Sáez in the wonderful dance venue at the Dance Center of Columbia Chicago as we readied to watch his troupe, Malpaso, perform, we were able to find a few stolen moments for conversation in which he recounted the many stops on this tour—Austin, Miami, Durham, New York, among others—and more on the docket in the coming months.
Here in Chicago they have not only been performing but interacting with Columbia College students in master classes, seminars, etc. Sáez did concur that it is at times exhausting, but is quick to add that they are doing what they absolutely love and have no complaints.
The following day Picture this Post (PTP) caught up with Sáez by phone to continue this conversation--
PTP: How do you think the extensive touring Malpaso does affects both Delgado’s choreography and the Malpaso dancers’ technique?
Sáez: It is not possible for any dancer to grow and mature professionally unless they bring their work to their audiences. The more of this, the better. ...When we founded Malpaso most of dancers that we hired were very young—and actually they are still young. Most didn’t have enough experience and the tours have helped them to get this experience as they perform..We also perform in Havana in our most important theater, Mella Theater, the grand theater of Havana.. We also perform in our studio and it is very important to us to have this tourist business. It exposes our dancers. They are confronted with the audience. There really is no other way.
PTP: Does dance figure more prominently in Cuban culture than in the US, for example? What does that mean for Malpaso?
Sáez: Dance and music are manifestations that are deeply rooted in our culture. I would say that Cuba is a dancing island and both dance and music are part of our cultural foundation. Dance is not only a connection with nature or entertainment but also a way we deeply connect to communication. Dance is also part of a culture of resistance in Cuba. And we have traditions not only of artistic dance but also social dance and religious dance. Actually artistic dance and ballet are the newcomers in our dance history. So yes, dance is very very important in our culture, as is music.
As a company, we are aware that we are part of a historical legacy. We are aware of the fact that we belong to the culture. We know where we come from. When we propose a new production we are not afraid of the idea of portraying Cuba-- we know that we embody this cultural tradition…. “
PTP: How can tourists to Cuba make sure to see Malpaso perform there?
Sáez : We have performances in our studio, an open studio, very often… This is is part of our vision to foster and promote the emerging Cuban choreographers.
We suggest that if you are traveling to Cuba you should contact us in advance via our website or email, so we can plan…
In fact, right now as we tour we also have five dancers at home. They are actually doing these open studios now.
PTP: Any other comments about your visit to Chicago and work with the Dance Center at Columbia College?
Sáez : It is always a very engaging and beautiful to have a chance to interact with students in this way—in classes and workshops. When we have these discussions it enriches the experience for all of us…It is hard and intense when we travel from one place to another, but yet it is so very important and a great opportunity.
...Chicago is a special city with a very vibrant artistic life that is important for dance—ballet and contemporary dance. It’s also a place where we have many friends. Ideally we would like to come here again soon to strengthen our relationship with the Chicago dance community.
Want to visit Malpaso Dance Company in Cuba? Contact them here.