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Rumbera re-Imagined.

Presented at The World Dance Alliance

Angers, France July 2014

A video presentation of excerpts from my solos In Absence (2012) and La Puerta(2011) will serve as the basis for discussing strategies of cultural translation in my reinterpretation of rumba. Adopting rumba as a metaphor of my Cuban heritage, I translate this form from the public domain to the private domain, from the social world to the subjective realm, and from aesthetics of community spectacle to a postmodern inquiry about personal performance.  While rumba is associated with public spaces, spectacle and social identities, I manipulate it into an intimate, confessional medium for expressing and reflecting upon my personal journey as a Cuban American. In performance and video I situate rumba in an intimate domestic sphere, evoking household and family memories. Working with rumba as a solo improvisational language, I pursue an articulation of identity within postmodern dance. Dialoguing with the dance form's markers of nationality, race, gender and social class, I seek to reflect upon my condition as woman, an immigrant and a member of the Cuba diaspora. Through this analysis of my recontextualization of rumba, I address questions about performance art as an exercise in translation, hybridization and artistic agency.

In Absence: A Rumbera in Diaspora.

Presented at Society of Dance History Scholars joint conference with NOFOD

Trondheim, Norway June 2013

Scholar and artist Mary O’Reilly Herrera writes on absence: “In some sense, all contemporary Cuban diasporic discourse and cultural expressions measure, consciously or unconsciously, against a central absence. That absence is the island” (O’Reilly Herrera 1). As an artist, who has never been to the island, I am constantly measuring my contemporary ideas of movement and work against those of other artist and scholars that have spent time in Cuba researching and experiencing firsthand the offerings of the island. In this paper I share my perspective as a Cuban immigrant that moves, researches and creates within the spaces in between – in the space of absence. This paper is contextualized through the creative process, and performance of my work In Absence. The work demonstrates, as well as, questions migratory ideas/experiences, while examining how my migratory body translates and transforms the information into a performance.

The spectacle of Rumba: Theatrics of Sexual Exhibitionism

Presented at Latin American Studies Association

Toronto, Canada. October 2010

Outside Cuba, rumba has often been rendered a spectacle of sexual exoticism. Although distorting, such interpretation of rumba refers to original features of the dance. In the development of rumba, the architecture of the Cuban colonial courtyards propitiated aesthetics of spectacle for the display of highly sexualized gender roles. The tiers of windows and balconies that surrounded these courtyards provided a vantage point for witnessing rumba events. In this setting, neighbors and onlookers turned into spectators that attended a rooster's chase of a hen--the sexual metaphor that animates the interaction between male and female guaguancó dancers. Such theatrics of sexual exhibitionism were amplified for even larger audiences with the internationalization of rumba, as the dance traveled from Havana's colonial courtyards to proscenium stages, movie screens and ballroom dance floors outside Cuba. It was precisely rumba's aesthetic of spectacle and sexualized gender roles that led to the dance form being exoticized, distorted and exploited in these new settings. 

Cuban Rumba: the spectacle within solares

Presented at Society of Dance History Scholars

London, England. July 2010

Rumba as a word or dance can bring to mind, due to media and popular culture, certain images. The use of bright colors on costumes made up of ruffles on the hips and arms with movements that accentuate the costuming or slick ballroom dancers moving their feet in a box step with slight hip motions. Rumba or Rhumba[1] stem from the Traditional Cuban Rumba of the 19thcentury solar in the urban areas of Havana and Matanzas[2] which have been appropriated by different populations. Traditional Cuban Rumba is a form that contained in its creation none of these glamour’s elements that were added to bring the dance to the concert stage[3]or social arena. There is a rich foundation in the traditional form that contains very different spectacular elements which are explored in this paper. The argument is that the architectural frame of solares, spatial orientation of moving bodies designated by the architecture and community in addition to the movement metaphor create the Rumba spectacle. In particular this paper focuses on Rumba Yambu and Guagaunco as the two forms that were created within the architectural structure of solares.