Jackson is getting a taste of Havana this week.
For the second time this year, Dancers’ Workshop is hosting Cuba’s premier contemporary dance troupe, Malpaso Dance Company, for a week of festivities surrounding the nonprofit’s annual gala Thursday evening.
Malpaso was last in Jackson in the spring for a residency during which it worked with the esteemed Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton on a new piece. While the new work is in process, Malpaso will perform the first piece the group created with Barton, “Indomitable Waltz,” during the gala and at an additional performance Saturday. For those wishing to see a bit of the troupe’s behind-the-scenes work, Malpaso is having a free open rehearsal from 5 to 6 p.m. tonight.
Dancers’ Workshop Artistic and Executive Director Babs Case has wanted to bring Malpaso to Jackson for years. She first heard about them by following Barton, who has worked with some of the biggest names in dance, including Mikhail Baryshnikov. With a visit to Cuba under her belt, she was intrigued by the dance company that has been taking international stages by storm. After seeing them in New York a few years ago she knew she wanted to share their talents with the Jackson community.
“They’re highly technical dancers, which I think comes from their strong ballet tradition,” she said. “But they’re this strange combination of highly technical with raw emotion.”
The emotion infused in “Indomitable Waltz” makes it one of her favorite pieces of choreography right now.
“It’s beautiful, sensual, and there’s lots of emotion in it,” she said. “It’s just a beautiful dance.”
This spring Dancers’ Workshop got to see a sneak peak behind the very beginnings of Malpaso and Barton’s second collaboration. Malpaso’s Executive Director Fernando Saez said that the upcoming partnership was the first time the company has ever returned to work with the same choreographer.
“Deciding who to work with is based on mutual interest, respect and the recognition of potential challenging creative adventures,” he said. “Coming back to working with the same choreographer results from artistic complicity, and the certainty that the previous processes didn’t exhaust the joy of the relationship and opened hatchways to new discoveries.”
The new work is in the early stages. The time the dancers spent in Jackson this spring was focused on “Aszure and the dancers of the company reconnecting through improvisations and dealing with some existing materials,” Saez said. “The process is on hold, until we meet again.”
While this spring was about delving into the creative process, this summer is about celebration: celebration of Dancers’ Workshop’s latest turn around the sun, a celebration of the highly praised “Indomitable Waltz,” and a celebration of Malpaso and Cuban culture.
Outside of the performances, Dancers’ Workshop is throwing a Cuban fiesta on Friday, complete with food trucks, a salsa band and dance demos to celebrate the Cuban dancers’ arrival. The event is free and family friendly — don’t forget to pack your picnic blankets and dancing shoes.
“It’s an event to really draw a celebratory atmosphere around them coming here from Cuba,” Case said.