Celebrating 25 years of creative work
By Helson Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES — “The Danza Espiral Dance Company has emerged from that primary vortex of ideas,” said its director, Lilian Padron, in her interview with Havana Times.
HT: Where does the restless creativity come from that gave Matanzas this dance company?
Lilian Padron: According to my parents ever since childhood I liked to dance. Unlike most parents, who want their girls to study ballet, mine weren’t so convinced of the idea.
Though they took me after the established period for taking an aptitude test, I met the conditions for studying that specialty. This, along with my interests and personal pressure from the teacher resulted in my parents finally approving me entering the dance school.
I graduated in 1975 and began working as a dance instructor. I was always captivated by creation, and in each choreographic work in which I took part, ever since I was a child, I would think about how I would have done it. Whenever I had the chance, I would end up batting around my ideas with my colleagues. Those experiences with amateurs and my introduction to modern and folkloric dance were decisive.
In 1979 I traveled to Leningrad to study at the Superior Institute of Culture, where I graduated in 1983 with a Master’s of Arts in choreography and as a dance instructor.
HT: Tell us about the emergence of Danza Espiral.
LP: My work with amateurs brought me into contact with a group of people interested in choreography, which is how we somehow met at different festivals with each one of us doing their own work. However, on several occasions we came together to produce different projects.
It was with Guillermo Horta and Angel Luis Serbia that we brought together our knowledge of oriental cultures and our command of vocal work with the aim of doing contemporary folklore; plus, I needed to be able to count on a more stable group of people to allow me to do research and conduct experimental work based on my interest in contemporary dance, where I could explore movement, voice, acting. In this way I would be able to put my studies into practice.
We had common interests in contemporary dance, and what each person could contribute from their professional training was an adhesive element that allowed us to combine all those resources to create dance that was interlaced and diverse. So began our Danza Espiral (Spiral Dance Group). We were fortunate to be approved as a project in 1987.
HT: What are the concepts that currently define your group?
LP: This would be trying to find a particular way of moving that is linked to the use of energy. We try to eliminate power by instead looking for movement in the very core of the body, from where it spreads out in all possible directions to achieve an enlarged body, where it’s ready to captivate yet without the need to do so just by the use of technique and virtuosic movements.
Having each choreographic work as a spring is based on the necessity and the clarity of the creator in the “how” will I do it, but that its also done through research before and during the process, through experimentation, through direct work and dancers committed to each process without fear of contradictions and differences.
HT: Say something about your company’s dancers as well as their training?
LP: The bottom line for me is the dancer being interested in my concept, this is the first condition. In my 25 years of experience I’ve had some dancers who only completed an elementary level of training and, in exceptional cases, dancers with no formal instruction at all; of course these were very special cases where there was tremendous desire to dance and people with highly expressive bodies. Those elements, together with daily work and a good attitude, enabled them to become excellent dancers.
Upon joining our company, dancers find themselves trapped in this system of training, which develops other unexplored areas of their bodies and minds.
HT: Can you develop within the cultural context in a city like Matanzas, particularly within the dance culture?
LP: Now I know that I couldn’t do my work outside this city; it moves me, assaults me, captivates me, it provokes me. I feel like I’m in the perfect place for creating even though we don’t have our own space and the city is falling down.
This cultural city of Jose Jacinto Milanes, slow (as if drawn by each one of its streets leading to the bay), the Yumuri Valley, the silence of the night, the white owl in the park, the crazy characters who adorn the city – I haven’t found this anywhere else.
Present here are almost all manifestations of culture and art, with important poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, designers and musicians, and a particular diversity of Afro-Cuban folklore.
Epiral emerged from this primary vortex of ideas, techniques, trends, experimentation and research involving individualities and our culture to make it unstoppable.
HT: Danza Espiral isn’t limited to its stage productions. From its location it also convenes interesting events.
LP: The only reason we were compelled to convene the “Danzandos” National Choreography and Performance Competition starting in 1994, in the middle of the Special Period crisis, and the Critics’ Workshop, on two occasions, was to stimulate exchange and discussion, especially among the youth. We think not only of ourselves, but of all Cuban dancers.
However, according to recent criteria issued from the 10th edition of Danzandos, and taking into consideration that it was impossible to continue the Critics’ Workshop due to the lack of specialists, we had to analyze whether it was worth continuing to insist on something that did not contribute to the development and improvement of dance in Cuba.
In any case, we will consider all suggestions for the preparation of the 11th edition of Danzandos in 2014, when we will be celebrating the 20th year of the competition and will be able to define which path to follow.
HT: Has having your project outside Cuba’s capital ever been a constraint to your creative process?
LP: Not at all. Plus, we’re close by. When I want to connect with the capital I can travel the 60 miles, meanwhile in my bubble, something doesn’t mean we’re disconnected from the world.
HT: What choreography is most closely identified with Lilian Padron? (and it would be interesting to hear your arguments with respect to that).
LP: I could mention several choreographies: El No, Un hombre es asi, Vida de Flora, La sombra de los otros, La edad de la ciruela, Otelo, ¿Y mi cuerpo?, Si me tocas…, La lagrima and Aire Frio.
I often reject material. It’s to the point that the dancers look at me like an “executioner,” but sometimes I’ll save a work. This is something I learned from that beloved teacher Ramiro Guerra, who said “Tell me what you’re going to say and then leave the stage,” perhaps not literally, but that’s the essence.