Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mar. 14- Zona Cuerpo in Vedado

I have been thinking a lot about bodies. Free bodies. Imprisoned bodies. Dead bodies. Dancing bodies.

Tonight at the Teatro Mella on Linea in Vedado, I saw a performance by Danza Combinatoria of the Rosario Cárdenas company. The performance entitled Zona-Cuerpo (Body Zone) featured six dancers (two men and four women) with painted bodies, live music and chanting, and spoken words. The bodies interacted with one another, at times in extremely erotic poses and other times fighting violently with one another. The erotic poses that combined every imaginable preference and position transported the audience to another space, apart from the everyday struggles of life in Havana.

At one point toward the end of the performance, one of the dancers could no longer sustain herself, and had to be supported by the others. She was a limp vessel, being twisted, held up, dragged, and carried. Finally, the whole group tried to support, push, and encourage the image of a man on a screen as he walked forward, but in the end the man stops, frozen in time, and he disintegrated into nothing. The dancers fell to the ground, low red lights washed the stage, and slowly they writhd to life shedding all of their clothes. They were left to confront the world as they came into it, completely naked, and also completely free.

The dance company held an open forum with the audience after the show. One person referred to the freedom that the dancers exhibited on stage, saying how he too would like to inhabit that world. There were a large number of psychologists in the audience who spoke about how people go around with a lot of repressed ideas and feelings, and that the dance served as a metaphor for free expression of these repressed ideas. One retired factory worker stated that he felt transported from the struggle of the crowded guagua (the bus) to another world. He didn’t understand what the dance was about, he said, but he was able to see another world was possible. In what other part of the world does a retired factory worker pay the equivalent of 20 US cents to see a postmodern dance performance, and then stay to engage in an open forum about its meaning? He and his wife will still have to board a crowded bus to return home, but the best of the revolution was somehow present there in Teatro Mella.

I was reminded of the Cuban filmmaker Fernando Pérez’s film “Life is to Whistle” in which a psychiatrist explains to his patient that Cubans need to say what they have been bottling up inside to free themselves. He runs around the street shouting “doble moral” (literally meaning double morals but referring to the act of saying one thing in public and doing the opposite), “sexo”, and “libertad.” As people hear these taboo words, they faint. The dance performance tonight was a public expression of that which goes hidden in plain sight, and remains repressed in everyday life. Numerous people in the audience said they envied the dancers, they wanted to be on stage, they wanted to be liberated. One of the young dancers took the microphone and told the audience that the performance means nothing if they go home, go to sleep and forget about it. They must be willing to change, to free what is being repressed, to dance, to move, to interact freely.

The images of the emaciated body of the dissident journalist Guillermo Fariñas, engaged right now in Santa Clara in a life threatening hunger strike for the release of 26 political prisoners, flashed into my head. Does one have to starve ones body to gain freedom? In the late nineteenth century, Cuba had the highest suicide rate in the world because so many Chinese contract workers, who were being treated like slaves on sugar plantations, chose to kill themselves rather than submit to continued bondage.

As I walked into the twilight falling on Linea, the P 1 guagua streaked by loaded with passengers squished against one another as if performing a postmodern dance, the boteros (collective taxis) belched thick black smoke as they roared down the road like motor boats on wheels, and I imagined a day when the Zona Cuerpo could be performed on Linea without professional dancers. That day all bodies will be free from Havana to Guantanamo, from Madrid to New York City.

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