Research Focus: The Role of Dance in U.S.-Cuban Relations
Initial Research (2016-2017)
In fall 2016, I studied revolutionary education, history, and sociology in Havana, Cuba. During my time there, I spent a week in Conjunto Artístico Comunitario Korimakao, a community arts center in Matanzas. The artists led us through Afro-Cuban folkloric dance, contemporary phrases, and salsa partnering. An emphasis on dialogue and an openness surrounding artistic process made this foreign environment welcoming and accessible.
My internship at Jacob's Pillow Dance in Becket, MA introduced me to celebrated Cuban flamenco choreographer Irene Rodríguez. Irene's triumphant Pillow debut sparked new questions--how do American dance presenters approach international collaboration and artistic exchange with contemporary Cuban dance companies? From there, I interviewed Linda Shelton, the Executive Director of The Joyce Theater, who, since 2001, has spearheaded trips that bring American dance presenters (like Pamela Tatge of Jacob's Pillow) to Cuba. Shelton, through The People-to People-Initiative (now banned by Trump), also brought renowned choreographers like Ronald K. Brown and Ohad Naharin to Havana to set works on Malpaso Dance Company, a privately-funded, contemporary Cuban group.
In my senior year of Connecticut College, my studies shifted toward Latin American, and specifically Cuban, dance. With a focus on globalization, I researched the Americanization of salsa dance and dance's relationship with tourism in Latin American countries. My introduction to socialist ideologies in Cuba led me to question how governing ideologies in the U.S., and our overarching capitalist systems, continue to shape our performing arts culture.
Honors Thesis (2017-2018)
My senior honors thesis in dance pairs a 70-page research paper with a 13-minute dance work, titled, "That's Not My Neighbor: Artistic Exchange as a Vehicle to Normalize Relations Between Cuba and the United States".
Since Fidel Castro’s revolution, the globalization of dance has initiated heightened interaction between Cuban and American art presenters, dancers, choreographers, and students. This newfound communication, and the interrelated nature of dance and politics raises the question of how dance might shape or be shaped by these changing political relations.
Through my research, I reveal how popular discourse surrounding Cuban dance companies sparks political tension between Cuba and the United States.
I argue that dance critics do not acknowledge Cuba’s innovation, but rather highlight its perceived backwardness by evaluating Cuban choreography through an American dance lens. I conclude that American artists need to adopt a more Cuban approach to collaboration that values effective dialogue and openness to change.
Post-Grad Research (2019-present)
After the initial showing of "That's Not My Neighbor" at Connecticut College, the work came to NYC, where it has been performed at Arts On Site. I look forward to showing this work at WAXworks (August 2019) and the Liberty Hall Dance Festival (September 2019).
From January-June of 2019, I worked for the Havana Film Festival New York (HFFNY) under the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (AFLFC). As the Press Coordinator, I connected with Latinx filmmakers, writers, actors, and photographers, to ensure that my research goes beyond the dance realm.
We live under an administration that threatens our relationship with Cuba--it's more important than ever that we embrace the undeniable artistic innovation of our southern neighbor. In June 2019, Trump banned "People-to-People" visits to Cuba, reversing Obama's efforts to normalize relations between the two countries.
My hope is that this research and dance work will pave the way for a new type of dialogue surrounding Cuba--one that does not allow political tension to govern the way we perceive Cuban dance.
I hope to ultimately bring my own dance work to Cuba, and collaborate with contemporary Cuban companies so that I can experience for myself, in the studio, how my research on artistic exchange might materialize. I am eager to live in Cuba for a more extended period of time, so that I can use rehearsal spaces, talk to companies that are both funded by the Cuban government and run privately, visit dance schools, and digest what it's like to exist as a dancer in Cuba. Going forward, I will ask, how does living under socialist ideologies shape a dancer’s identity and a dancer’s value within a shifting Cuban economy?