Cuba On Their Minds: CubaCaribe in Oakland

The CubaCaribe dance festival hit Oakland on Apr. 22, 2016, a year into the Big Cuban Thaw, and barely one month after Barack Obama’s historic visit to Havana – in the aftermath of which Fidel Castro groused, “We do not need the empire to give us anything.”

 

Natalie Aceves, Delvis Savigne Friñon, Fredrika Keefer (on floor) in Ramón Ramos Alayo's Where the Butterflies Go / A Donde Van las Mariposas (Photo: Eli Jacobs Fantauzzi)

Natalie Aceves, Delvis Savigne Friñon, Fredrika Keefer (on floor) in Ramón Ramos Alayo’s Where the Butterflies Go / A Donde Van las Mariposas (Photo: Eli Jacobs Fantauzzi)

Ironically, the “empire” has only benefitted from decades of Cuban diaspora. The vibrant music and dance scene in the San Francisco Bay Area attests to the longstanding search by Cuban artists for freedom of expression and collaboration opportunities. Cuban ballet dancers continue to defect to the West, for example – many of them ending up in the Bay Area. Like many of their Russian counterparts, they crave the modern, often experimental, repertory that is not permitted to flourish in authoritarian soil.

The three choreographers represented in Weekend 2 of CubaCaribe riffed on this year’s festival theme, “Cuba on my mind,” with imaginative results. Revolution – in some form – was definitely on their minds.

Click here to read my review in KQED Arts.

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