Cuban dance company makes rare appearance

A national Cuban modern dance troupe is visiting America for the first time since the United States imposed an embargo on the island nation. The Danza Contemporanea de Cuba will perform in Philadelphia Wednesday at the Merriam Theater.

The modern dance company mixes mambo, classical ballet, and African styles, drawing from homegrown Cuban salsa moves as well as international modern dance.

Since the United States imposed an economic embargo on Cuba in the 1960s, no modern dance company has visited the States. Even now, as the Danza Contemporanea de Cuba tours America, the embargo prohibits the dancers from being paid; they can accept only enough to cover their travel expenses.

The popular American image of Cuba features mid-century American cars and old men playing traditional son music. The works on the Merriam’s stage move away from those traditions.

“You’re born, you know. You don’t have to learn to be sexy, how to dance salsa, to do many things that are part of your culture,” said dancer and choreographer George Cespedes. “At the same time, that doesn’t mean you like it.”

Cespedes’ short piece, called “Mambo 3XXI,” re-imagines the dance invented in Cuban nightclubs

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba is visiting four cities during their tour. After Philadelphia, the dancers will perform in Boston.

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