BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts

BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing ArtsThey are a formidable dance company, albeit a young one. Their repertoire is varied and ambitious and exudes an energetic force guiding their growth and depth that seems destined to succeed. The Malpaso Cuban Dance Company performed March 28 - 30, 2019 in the Bram Goldsmith Theater at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. They are the only independent dance company in Cuba, and while integrating modern and contemporary dance into the mainstream in Cuba, they are also growing, learning and expanding by dancing works choreographed by North American choreographers and infusing their own varied culture and Cuban influences into others' work.

The first selection was Merce Cunningham's well-known "Fielding Sixes," a version crafted especially for the Company staged by Jamie Scott, using the original music by John Cage, "Improvisation IV." It is an exercise in variations to a theme, using ballet steps, folk dancing combinations and formations to visually define the musical BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Artscomposition's structure. In appearance, it seems much like a set set of routines, done repetitively in different formations and groupings, sometimes as a solo, duo or trio or as a "round," where a dancer begins a step and a different dancer begins the combination on the following beat, then the next, etc., at equally spaced intervals of time.

It brought to mind watching a dance class take place as they grand jeté across the floor and properly place all of their port de bras, their extensions and footwork. Sections of the music lend themselves to traditional Irish Cieli-dancing with fast-bowing electric violins and rapid flute arrangements that build to a cacophony sounding pitch. The costuming, by David Quinn, light blue mixed with burgundy, was strikingly effective against a black backdrop and effectively lit by designer Manuel de Silva. The precise dancers were Dunia Acosta, Maria Karla Araujo, Daile Carrazana, Osnel Delgado, Beatriz Garcia, Armando Gomez, Abel Rojo and Lisbeth Saad.

BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts"Ocaso," choreographed by Osnel Delgado, the Founder and Artistic Director of Malpaso, for himself and at this performance Daile Carrazana, which he also designed the costumes for, was a passionate and intricately choreographed pas de deux that was beautifully executed by both, with a fierce intensity of the need to be connected and to reciprocate with deep, raw BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Artsemotions. Through the entire piece, which had three distinct musical offerings, the two were intertwined with each other in a sort of dreamy love fest of joy and appreciation, never breaking their physical connection, which grew in intensity as did the music, creating lovely diagonal and lyrical lines. BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts

The end of the piece was very moving, as the lights dim and a spectacular fervid last embrace ends in him sensually grasping her cheek.

After a short pause, the next piece marked Beatriz Garcia's choreographic debut with "(Ser) Being" performed by Beatriz, Dunia Acosta and Fernando Benet. She also designed the costuming, pastel colors, which worked well with the beautifully constructed piece. Unusual upper body movements, body rolls, slinky and wiggly undulations gave way to poses in angular positions, switching to knee spins and floor work, then in a close-knit formation they wrap around each other but do not stop moving, with wrists twisting and turning in the air, creating odd images. As a classical piano solos, the three dancers pose, then move fluidly through the steps to the next pose, always changing up the lines and shapes, making many different pictures with their bodies. Technical feats, such as a BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Artscontrolled and slow ronde de jambe en l'air or holding in deep plié a la seconde while in elevé add diversity to the choreography and grab your focus.

The final piece, "Tabula Rasa," choreographed by the renowned Ohad Naharin, Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company and curator of the "Gaga" movement, was fascinating yet a bit disjointed and oddly paced. Most sections of the contemporary choreography were exciting, beautifully performed by the strong company, with conviction. The music was intense at times, high-pitched violin vibrato playing louder and faster driving the dancers to leap and spin across the floor, accenting different beats, kicking their legs wildly and BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Artsfrenetically. Then abruptly, they are all laying on the floor, en masse turning onto their stomachs and crawling off stage as it blacks out with the music still playing, leaving a bare stage and no action. Eventually a lone male dancer enters, tottering slowly around in dim light, seemingly in a daze. Others join in from stage left and one-by-one they form a line, side-stepping, moving painstakingly slow, inch-by-inch, upstage, toward stage right, to melancholy, lamenting violin music. It felt to me very tedious to observe, and broke the strain of energy put forth at the beginning. It was intentional, I'm sure, but went on for way too long. It lost the momentum and direction and seemed to effect the dancers level of performance, also. The rest of the piece lacked continuity and direction, although the dancers put their all into it. The company as a whole needs to connect more with the material, focusing on intent and how to transmit that to the audience through their instrument; their bodies...

BWW Review: Malpaso Cuban Dance Company Spices Things Up In A Rare Los Angeles Appearance At The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing ArtsThis is a rising company, and as they continue their quest to broaden their repertoire, and incorporate more diverse styles they will be a force to reckon with. With steadfast directors and mentors at the helm, they are already on their way.

Photos courtesy of Wyatt Johnson



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