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When Miguel Iglesias, director of Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, was still in grammar school, he told his dad he wanted to be a dancer. Without saying a word, his father began to guide his son towards sports, especially swimming. Miguel became pretty good at it and eventually graduated from the Higher Institute of Sports and Physical Education. But his wish of becoming a dancer had never died. He danced whenever and wherever he could at social centers, comparsas during the carnivals, anywhere.
In 1967, encouraged by a friend who was dancing with the Cuban Television Ballet, he did an audition and passed the test. Two years later, in 1969, he traveled to Camagüey to work with the newly-created ballet. He studied there under Russian dancer Azari Plizetski (Alicia Alonso’s partner for many years) and Loipa Araújo (one of the jewels of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba) and attended every course and workshop he could get hold of.
One day, he attended Medea y los negreros, by Ramiro Guerra’s Conjunto Nacional de Danza, and in his own words, it was like “a slap in the face” that woke him up to what he wanted to do with dance. He resolved to join the company and left for Havana. He didn’t achieve his dream right away in the meantime he even studied Spanish Literature at the University of Havana. In 1975, in spite of a sprained ankle, he did an audition and became the newest member of Conjunto Nacional de Danza.
According to Miguel, he is a man of action, not an intellectual who dances. He has never left any opportunity go by–he premiered both Marianela Boán’s and Rosario Cárdenas’ first choreographies; he has danced and acted. He has been in the right place at the right time.
He was offered the direction of the company twice, in 1981, when he said no, and in 1984. He was 37 and still physically fit to continue dancing, but accepted because there many things that he thought were not right with the company. After Ramiro Guerra, the company’s founder, there had been 14 successive directors, and some who knew nothing about dancing. Miguel describes it like a child who has had 14 stepfathers with everything that this implies. His goal became to unify the company and managed not only this but made his company the “mother” of many other modern dance companies in Cuba, like DanzAbierta or Danza Combinatoria.
As Danza Contemporánea’s director, he feels the need to share an artistic affinity with the people who work by his side, to listen to their opinions in the most professional manner and believe in their honesty. Their love for dance unites them in their enterprise.
Thirty-one years later, Miguel Iglesias’ Danza Contemporánea de Cuba is one of the most universal companies in the dance scene in the world and has proven its ability to adapt and interpret varied styles. Iglesias has preserved the innovative spirit of its founders and is faithful to the original premises, which has allowed him to be open to the latest trends in dance in the world.
“To talk about cubanía today,” Miguel Iglesias confides, “is much more complex than years ago. Young people have other forms of expression and that does not make them less Cuban than our traditions. I think as a Cuban because I’m a Cuban, but I am also a citizen of the world and do not feel the need to show folkloric scenes to reaffirm the Cuban character.”
Danza Contemporánea de Cuba
Founded in 1959 by celebrated choreographer and teacher Ramiro Guerra who introduced modern dance in Cuba, this company would become the backbone of Cuban contemporary
dance with Lorna Burdsall, Santiago Alfonso, Irma Obermayer and Eduardo Rivero as founding members, just to mention a few. It has premiered over 250 works with the premise of integrating modern theatre to current dance styles, African and Spanish roots and the rich popular Cuban cultural heritage. Most of its members, who are graduates of the National School of Arts, are characterized by their technique and ductility. The company has toured extensively the Americas, Europe and Africa and has performed at the most important international dance festivals with works by famous choreographers, such as Doris Humphrey, classical Cuban pieces including Suite Yoruba by Ramiro Guerra, or Michelangelo by Víctor Cuellar, and newer works also by Cuban choreographers. In recent years, the company, which is now directed by former dancer Miguel Iglesias, has worked in collaboration with international choreographers Jan Linkens, Luca Bruni and Kenneth Kwamström, among others, although it has continued its experimental trend with works by Cuban dancers and musicians, such as Jorge Abril’s solo Cara o cruz, with music by Leo Brouwer and Guido López Gavilán.