Feature: Spanish dance flashmob takes over iconic Havana street

by Raimundo Urrechaga

HAVANA, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — One of the most emblematic streets of Havana’s Old Town was taken over Sunday by Spanish dance and flamenco in a unique “flashmob” that impressed hundreds of Cubans.

More than 200 children, teenagers and professional dancers of different Spanish dance companies in the island came together in the legendary San Rafael boulevard to dance a “sevillana” choreographed by famous Spanish dancer Antonio Gades.

The flashmob feat, as part of the ongoing 26th Havana International Ballet Festival, aims to take Spanish dance out of the theaters for hundreds of Cubans to appreciate.

“We wanted to take flamenco out of the walls of the classrooms, off the stages and we are very happy with the acceptance that this singular flashmob had today. Definitely flamenco is a very lively art in Cuba,” Eugenia Eiriz, Gades’ widow and president of the foundation that bears his name, told Xinhua.

To the beat of the traditional flamenco “taconeo” (shoe stamping), rhythmic clapping and perfect turns, Cuban dancers performed “Fuego,” a piece that marked Gades’ career.

“Taking Spanish dance from the stages and rehearsal rooms to the street opens the doors to an audience that most of the time doesn’t come to the theaters to know and learn about our art,” Irene Rodriguez, one of the most recognized flamenco dance directors in the island, told Xinhua.

Her company along with other groups like the Cuba Spanish Ballet and Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba joined renowned Spanish dancers to perform the piece.

“It has been very exciting and to do so in an emblematic Havana street makes us feel very proud. It has been so well received and many people wanted to join us,” said Ana del Rey, dancer of the Antonio Gades company.

To make the flashmob performance a success, participants have been rehearsing for a whole week the choreography of this “sevillana,” one of the most popular dances in Spain.

“I love Spanish dance and today I was very motivated to be here with other flamenco dance companies in Cuba for this special event,” Johana Gutierrez, an 11-year-old girl said with a smile on her face.

Her fellow dancer Amanda Romero, a 16-year-old teenager, came to the emblematic Havana street in her traditional flamenco dance costume.

“It was a great idea, we had to rehearse a lot, but it was worth it. It was incredible and I hope we can do it again,” said Romero, who has been dancing since the age of 7 at Irene Rodriguez’s company.

The flashmob “allows the public to know and not only get into the Spanish dance movement we have in Cuba, but also the possibility of approaching the work of Antonio Gades,” said Rodriguez.

At the 26th Havana International Ballet Festival, which runs until Nov. 6, the Antonio Gades Foundation brought the show “Movements: dance from the tip to the heel” and the workshop “Flamenco as a theatrical language”.

Within the plans of the group is to repeat this experience in other spaces of the Cuban capital in 2019 when the city celebrates its 500 years of existence.

“Gades defined Cuba as the port of his life and that is why we want to be present at the festivities for the 500th anniversary of Havana next year and do something very special like this,” said Eiriz.

Shortly before his death in 2004, Gades received from late Cuban leader Fidel Castro the Jose Marti Order, the highest award in the island, for his “unbreakable love, friendship and fidelity” to this Caribbean nation.

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