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Lizt Alfonso Dance Company’s ‘Cuba Vibra’ makes its Boston premiere Nov. 7 and 8

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Lizt Alfonso Dance Company’s ‘Cuba Vibra’ makes its Boston premiere Nov. 7 and 8
Lizt Alfonso Dance Company performing “Vibra Cuba.” (Photo: Felix Miranda)

The Lizt Alfonso Dance Company makes its Boston debut with its production “Cuba Vibra” this Saturday and Sunday at the Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Set to Cuban music and dance from the 1950s to present-day, 18 dancers will take over the stage performing a seamless fusion of dances, including ballet, flamenco, cha-cha, rumba, conga, salsa and more.

“Cuba Vibra” is inspired by “who we are and where we come from, an authentic and incredible mix that goes from the basis of Cuban culture up to its most elaborate fruit,” writes Lizt Alfonso via email from Cuba. “‘Cuba Vibra’ is a fusion of very strong cultures, the cultures of Africa and Spain, and many others. All of them inspire us.”

Alfonso, who began dancing at the age of four, always dreamed of running her own dance company. In 1991 at the age of 23, Alfonso’s dream became a reality when the Lizt Alfonso Dance Company was founded. Since then, the company has performed countless shows all across the globe, spanning from Canada, Spain, France, and Egypt to Qatar, Mexico, China, South Africa and Colombia.

The dancer, choreographer, and educator responds to the Banner’s questions about her company, the influence of Cuban culture on the world stage, and why it’s important for her to educate the next generation.

You founded your company at the age of 23, and with all women dancers. How did that come about and was there a reason for having only women dancers?

Lizt Alfonso: Women in all spheres of life have a lot to say, but, unfortunately, we have not always been taken into account since remote times, though we have gained a lot in the battle. Then, one of my challenges was to make shows that would tell interesting stories, that would tell our points of view and that would keep the spectator glued to his seat for the approximately two hours that the show would last. And also something abstract, that we stopped being watched as beautiful women that know to move our bodies with grace to conquer a man and then go home to do our household chores and take care of our children, leaving aside our personal realization as professionals. And we succeeded! That’s why we are an all-women dance company, but without being feminists. In 2007, when I was given the opportunity to make musicals or dansicals, as Cliff Barnes describes them, then I invited male dancers to be able to tell the story of those characters, and so they decided to stay with us and now one of my dreams is to have an all-men dance company as the one we have with women. A new challenge!

Cuba is very much on the world stage right now. As an “unofficial” ambassador for Cuba through dance, what does it mean to you to be able to show the world the beauty of Cuban culture?

LA: Cuba has always been on the world stage because its performers, whether they live in Cuba or anywhere else, are proud of where they come from and their strong and solid culture. Therefore, you will find many great Cuban stars in the dance world, such as Alicia Alonso, Carlos Acosta, José Manuel Carreño, in music, such as Celia Cruz, Chano Pozo, Chucho Valdés, in fine arts, including Wilfredo Lam, Servando Cabrera, Los carpinteros, in literature you will find José Martí, Alejo Carpentier, Leonardo Padura, just to mention some very well-known names on different stages. All of us are Cuban culture ambassadors, of that GREAT authentic culture that comes out of our souls to tell the history of peoples. What I do is just to continue the tradition of sharing our culture with all.

Dance has taken you around the world, experiencing new cultures and meeting all kinds of people. Has that influenced you creatively, and if so in what way?

LA: Traveling, getting to know the world fills you with energy, expands your knowledge and feeds your spirit, thus, your creativity. All the places we’ve been to have influenced our work, from our visit to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, to learning about the wonderful work done in Oaxaca, Mexico, by the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation, also sharing class with children who study dance in South Africa, or sharing a Maori ritual in New Zealand, up to experiencing the euphoria of audiences in Chicago or NYC, or to finishing one of the company’s choreographies, all that makes you grow. Thus, you get inspired to go ahead with what you do and even to try much more for you and for others.

Why is it important for you to educate children and young people?

LA: It’s important for me to teach them discipline, rigor, aims in life, patience, devotion, will force, perseverance, infinite love for the others and for what they do and, above all, to teach them that boundaries only exist in the minds of the mediocre. We have to fly, but in order to fly, you need to be prepared, to study, to receive education and to understand that any road can lead you to the site of your dreams and it’s not necessarily easy to get there, let alone, there is a straight line toward that end. But if you seriously make up your mind to do it, you get there; it becomes only one step in the endless stairway in which you will find new and higher steps.

What do you hope that the audience takes with them after seeing Cuba Vibra?

LA: I wish those who are going to see us to enjoy the show and let themselves be carried away by the history of our bodies, lives, music, dance and, above all, our soul. And I want them to take home the joy of living, struggling, reflecting on what we can do and how we do it and, above all, the absolute capacity that you can fly without boundaries.