The master Mendive at work. Photo: Ismael Francisco
The most extensive presentation by Cuban artists to take place in the United States is scheduled this coming May 8 through June 3, in Washington’s renowned Kennedy Center.
The program, including some 50 events under the title of “Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World,” was announced in Havana, March 28, by Deputy Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas, who emphasized the importance of the event as indicative of the interest in building bridges of harmony and understanding between the two peoples.
“I can assure you that Cuban artists,” he said, “will convey our cultural values and our desire to promote exchanges in this field, within a climate of peace.”
The May 8 inauguration, in Eisenhower Hall, will feature Omara Portuondo, who will head the bill and be joined by pianists Rolando Luna, Aldo López Gavilán and Pachequito; saxophonist Yosvany Terry; singer Aymée Nuviola; the Miguel Faílde Danzón Orchestra; and the University of the Arts Orchestra affiliated with Havana’s Lyceum Mozartiano.
To close the program, the National Ballet of Cuba, led by the great Alicia Alonso, will travel to the U.S. capital for successive performances of Don Quijote and Giselle, May 29-June 3.
Some 400 artists, half from the island, will present intense days of music, ballet, contemporary dance, theater, and visual arts. Cuban musicians based in the United States and France, as well as outstanding visual artists from the island, José Parlá and Emilio Pérez, are set to participate.
Also featured is a film series, with a selection of Cuban classics (Memorias del subdesarrollo, by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea; Retrato de Teresa, by Pastor Vega; andy Lucía, by Humberto Solás), and prizewinning films from Havana’s Latin American Festival of New Cinema (Fresa y chocolate, by Gutiérrez Alea and Juan C. Tabío; Suite Habana, by Fernando Pérez; and Conducta, by Ernesto Daranas), as well as a movie poster exposition mounted by Cuba’s Film Institute, ICAIC.
Scheduled as well are fashion shows by designers Celia Ledón and Nachy Carmona, and “Arte y Moda” projects, directed by Maestro Rafael Méndez and director Juan Carlos Marrero, plus typical Cuban food and cocktail tastings.
Eight halls and 22 other spaces within the Kennedy Center are being utilized for presentations. Addressing the motivation behind organizing the mega-event, the Center’s vice president Alice Adams stated, “…the United States has Cuban music and Cuban arts in its DNA. Looking at all of that is what’s fascinating to me.”
The vast majority of artists participating in the event, including those who reside abroad, have been trained in the art schools created in Cuba since the 1959 triumph of the Revolution. These are creators and performers of recognized talent and indisputable mastery, many of whom are innovators in their art forms, but all in one way or another are linked to their roots.
Deputy Minister Rojas emphasized “the professionalism and seriousness of the collaboration between the Kennedy Center and our institutions and artists, at a time when, as we know, there have been restrictions.” The artists, for example, were obliged to travel to Mexico to acquire visas from the U.S. embassy’s consulate in the capital of this neighboring country.
“I think,” he said, “that an effort like this is also an expression of the desire of both parties to transcend the blockade that has affected us for decades.”
Music is taking center stage on the artistic agenda. All genre are being presented, from concert music to rap, including trova, with a concert by Pablo and Haydée Milanés, and dance music in the hands of Los Van Van. Cuba’s new generation of jazz musicians will be noticed.
In addition to the National Ballet of Cuba, there will be performances by the Malpaso and Irene Rodríguez companies. Theatrical works to be presented include Las lágrimas amargas by Petra von Kant, performed by El Público (director: Carlos Díaz), and Diez millones from the Argos Teatro (director: Carlos Celdrán).
Outstanding among the visual arts expositions are those of Roberto Fabelo, Roberto Diago, Esterio Segura, and Manuel Mendive – who will also perform with musicians Adonis González and Yosvany Terry.
May 12 will be Family Day, a community event that will begin with a parade of children’s marching bands, with Miguel Faílde’s danzón orchestra participating, followed by rumba and salsa demonstrations and classes, along with batucada, in Cuba’s Brazilian style. On the 19th, the classic “Guantanamera” will be performed my U.S. amateur choirs.