Narciso Medina’s “Contemporary Vision” 
 by Frank Taylor
 
 
Absent for several years from the big stages in Havana—its usual venue is the Favorito, a converted movie house with quite uncomfortable conditions for both audiences and dancers—the company founded and directed by dancer and choreographer Narciso Medina returned to the Mella Theatre with a program that included two new dances plus the piece that has been his trump card for more than two decades—Metamorfosis.

 
 

Absent for several years from the big stages in Havana—its usual venue is the Favorito, a converted movie house with quite uncomfortable conditions for both audiences and dancers—the company founded and directed by dancer and choreographer Narciso Medina returned to the Mella Theatre with a program that included two new dances plus the piece that has been his trump card for more than two decades—Metamorfosis.

This season, under the event Days of Dance, was baptized with the suggestive label “Contemporary Vision” with the aim of displaying a variety of choreographic proposals—with the basic characteristics of this company´s very particular style, in which the combination of diverse dance techniques enriched by Medina himself is clearly evidenced—some of them conceptually pretentious and naively complex, which not always managed to “hook” or “connect” with the sparse audience that attended their only four performances (explained perhaps by an endemic lack of coverage by the media).

Founded by Medina in 1993, the company reflects the “most novel” trends of contemporary dance found today in the international scene. According to its founder, their work revolves around the magic realism (term coined by Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier) derived from Latin American primitivism and the postmodernism of contemporary art, both of the visual and the performing arts.

On this special occasion, on the request and sponsorship of the National Council of Performing Arts, the dance company headed by Narciso Medina (who was absent due to prior engagements abroad) presented a program that included new pieces, such as La Vida en Rosa and Fuhjin–Rajin (world premiere), and pieces from their repertoire: the female solo from Marina, a fragment of Los Arcángeles (O Uva la Lune), and Metamorfosis.

La Vida en Rosa (La Vie en Rose) is a recent major piece by Narciso Medina, if we take into account the conceptualization of the phenomenological processes that he applies in the dramatics of his choreographic work, supported by several elements outside dancing, inspired in the art of filmmaking, when he uses multimedia, with video clips created by Medina himself, over a sound track composed of songs by Edith Piaf and Cuban popular music.

The multidisciplinary context of this production as dance–theatre did not reach, on the this occasion, the expected communication with the audience due to reprehensible factors such as the performance of the seven actor–dancers, which can always be improved in subsequent shows. This piece can be labelled as cinema–dance or dance that comes to life within the cinema. “The dancers act out their own lives,” said Medina.

The fragment O Uva de Lune from the piece Los Arcángeles is an interesting choreographic work by Martinique–born Jean–Claude Zadith, with the assistance of the music from Stravinsky´s The Rite of Spring, in which four dancers of both sexes become the devil´s disciples and succeed in their purposes through evil devices inspired by the well–known film Mefisto.

Next in the program came the world premiere of a joint effort by choreographers Yoko Saito from Japan and Idalmys Arias from Cuba: Fuhjin–Rajin (Fuhjin (god of air) and Rajin (god of lightning). Based on traditional Japanese legends, the piece combines the classical kabuki theatre and the peculiar style of this Cuban dance company with the resulting intercultural product.

The performance suffered from an uneven execution by the duo of dancers formed by Inarys García and Lázaro Campos, perhaps because of the lack of rehearsals on the large stage of the Mella Theatre coupled with the unfamiliar costumes, plus inadequate adjustments in the use of multimedia.

A highlight of the evening was the female solo Simplemente Marina, choreographed by Idalmys García especially for Nayleisis Nápoles, a ductile, flexible dancer who expertly keeps the pathos of this piece under control. In 15 minutes, dressed only in a short cocktail dress, Nayleisis portrays the different moods of this woman called Marina “who lives amongst us, with her load of conflicts and misunderstandings, dissatisfactions, and unrequited loves … She is the conscious that we keep in an imaginary pocket and that surfaces… as the truth yelled at the top of one´s voice.”

One emblematic piece of Cuban dance, Metamorfosis, is freely based on novelist Franz Kafka´s “The Metamorphosis,” with music by Jean–Michel Jarre. Here, lighting plays an almost protagonist role right from the start with the appearance of three athletic dancers inside a barrel, similar to a monstrous shapeless form, that slowly emerge and define themselves as the missing links of the human species or beings from an unknown world. With this work, Medina achieved acclaim as a choreographer in Cuba and, especially, in Japan with which he maintains close cultural ties.
The Narciso Medina Dance Company
March 2009
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