Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba (LADC) is one of the most well-established dance fusion company’s on the island. It’s almost 25 year history both in and outside of Cuba, has seen LADC become one of the country’s most popular and celebrated collectives.
The company’s success is due, in large part, to the creative and artistic tenacity of its director; dancer, choreographer and professor Lizt Alfonso who, in 2011 was named a UNICEF cultural ambassador, in recognition of her work training children and young people at her dance academy.
Starting out in the dance world at an early age, Alfonso studied at the Cuban School of Ballet, as well as flamenco, dance-theater, and folklore academies; before graduating from the University of the Arts with a degree in Theatre and Drama.
She has created, choreographed and directed all of the works presented by her company.
Meanwhile, under her direction, LADC became the first Cuban dance company to run for a full season on Broadway in New York’s New Victory Theatre, and the only one to date, to have participated in the Latin Grammy Awards, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, in 2015.
The company’s latest season, which recently ended in the Alicia Alonso Grand theater of Havana, was once again well received by the public.
Latido - the new work directed and choreographed by Lizt – is a piece that draws on emotion - the sorrow of loss and the joy of existence. From the music, based on the sound of a beating heart and composed by Saxophonist César López, to the nine choreographies which make up the complete spectacle, Latido is a work to be enjoyed in full.
According to Alfonso the idea for the piece emerged four years ago. “In 2013, I went out to dinner with a dear Mexican friend of mine and we talked about our future plans. The next day he returned to Mexico and later that night I found out that he had passed away. I was in complete and utter shock. Around that same time, three dancers from the company had just had babies and I was feeling a great mix of sadness and joy. So, I told the musicians that I wanted them to create music based on the sound of a beating heart and we started to develop the piece from there.
“The work is about what is happening in Cuba and the world. It has a feeling very particularly to our country, but global at the same time. Latido is about the masks, demagogy, jealousy, love, society, the struggle of the individual among the masses; all this can be found in any city across the world," she said.
Just over an hour in length, the work also shows the evolution LADC has undergone in recent years, with little of the all-female company, dedicated exclusively to flamenco, remaining.
Today, when Lizt Alfonso presents a show, the public knows that they will see flamenco, folklore, ballet, contemporary dance, various popular styles, music, and male dancers, an element this journalist discussed with the maestra:
Lizt, what has been the significance of incorporating male dancers?
It was very necessary for this choreography because I wanted to talk about the encounters and conflicts of sex, identity, and the decision to be, or not to be, who you want to be. I needed male dancers to be able to tell this story. In the age in which we currently live things have moved beyond the need for men and women to come together just to procreate and is one of the things that doesn’t annoy me.
We must be aware that this reality exists…everything can coexist in perfect harmony, at the end of the day all people want is happiness; it’s what we’re all searching for.
Talk to us about Latido in the context of your career as a choreographer?
For me it’s been very interesting to discover that I can move in any direction. Latido does and doesn’t have to do with my previous works, it’s the logical result of rejecting and appropriating different things that I need to continue charting pathways. It’s not about planting a tree and simply staying there, because that tree bears fruit. I believe that life is about being true to yourself, doing what you love, and feeling good about yourself.
Now, changing the topic slightly. For better or for worse your style of dance has often been described as commercial. What do you think about that?
The term doesn’t bother me. In order for a staged piece to really work, it must have an audience that understands what is being done. I love musical spectacles, because Cuban people are musical, I like to work with both music and dance simultaneously, as it connects to a much broader and diverse audience…an audience that becomes faithful.
I don’t mind if people call my work commercial, on the contrary I believe that it doesn’t make sense not to be commercial, we buy and sell everything, we artists are offering a service.
One last question. What makes your heart beat?
Everything you see up there on the stage, my company, dance, my dancers, my dreams.
Following their season at the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, LADC will offer an extensive program of shows both in Cuba and abroad. In June the company will present ¡Mil niños a escena…y más! in the capital’s Karl Marx Theater, before traveling to Turkey in July. Meanwhile, LADC will run summer courses through August, returning in September with ¡Cuba Vibra! October and November will see the group set off on their international Fall Tour across Europe, the Middle East, and North America, before celebrating their 25th anniversary in December; with a nationwide tour scheduled for 2018.