Malpaso Dance Company from Cuba mines the depth of physical acuity.
One of the most gorgeous companies that I never heard of tore up the stage at The Egg on Friday night.
Malpaso Dance Company, an athletic and energetic contemporary dance company from Cuba, overwhelmed audience with its heat and confidence. The 11 ballet trained dancers were supple and strong, moving with intention that demanded all to follow.
I was skeptical at first, mainly because the ensemble opened the evening with Merce Cunningham’s “Fielding Sixes.” The work from 1980 is a cold and stiff quasi-Scottish lilt. Their upper bodies are rigid as their feet kicked and hopped briskly along to John Cage’s “Improvisation IV.”
For articulate dancers of this caliber, I’m sure the piece was a challenge and one they should have skipped. Cunningham looked old-fashioned and dry, like dining on a piece of cardboard. It was not worth the effort.
Malpaso was better served as a vehicle for what it does best – mining the depth of its limitless physical acuity to express the breadth of human emotions.
This became clear in “Ocaso,” a work created by Osnel Delgado, the company’s artistic director and co-founder. Described as a day in the life of a couple, it felt more like a lifetime journey suggesting the joy and pain inherent in a long-time relationship.
Danced by Delgado and Daileidys Carrazana, who is also the company’s associate artistic director and co-founder, the work centered on the push and pull of intimacy that was expressed in a simple walk. With their backs to the stage, the two moved forward with arms placed lightly on each other’s shoulders. Carrazana would occasionally slip from his arm, twist, stumble and be drawn back in.
To music by Autechre, the Kronos Quartet and Max Richter, the dance grows in scope, revealing their individuality. Yet it loops back to their solid affection as they trace each other’s bodies in rest. As they walked away, again their back to the stage as if they are the only two in the world, the lights went dark, leaving the audience touched by its calm and beauty.
That was followed by “Being (Ser)” by choreographer Beatriz Garcia. The work for three, including Garcia, was a tumbling, seamless gambol for the dancers. They were liquid as they moved as one in this hypnotic piece. By now, I’m convinced I’m watching extraordinary artists.
The evening ended with Azsure Barton’s “Indomitable Waltz.” It’s obvious that Barton’s choreography is much better suited (compared to Cunningham) to this fine cadre of dancers. Barton explored couplings that were tinged with a nervous twitch and a head-dropping exhaustion. Yet the couples were cemented by a commitment to the waltz.
The final solo was riveting and implied sometimes we have to go it alone. “Indomitable Waltz” was masterful.
So too is Malpaso, an ensemble committed to working with established choreographers and drawing from the talent in its ranks. For this exceptional company, this is a recipe for artistic success. It’s one I hope to follow.