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Dancing with Cuba: a Memoir of the Revolution.


By Alma Guillermoprieto. New York: Pantheon Books. 2004. 304 pages. Cloth. $25.

When Merce Cunningham suggests to Alma Guillermoprieto that she take a teaching job in Cuba, she knows that means she will never get into his company. Seeking a second opinion, she asks Twyla Tharp for advice. Tharp looks up from tying her shoelaces and says, "If I were you, I'd take it. You're not going to get anywhere hanging around here." The year is 1969.

So starts Guillermoprieto's sojourn to Fidel Castro's Cuba. What she finds in Havana is a conservatory full of avid, untrained students and a dogmatic regime distrustful of the arts. Yes, Castro supports Alicia Alonso's Ballet Nacional de Cuba, but how committed is the Revolution to modern dance? And how committed is Guillermoprieto, who is originally from Mexico, to the Revolution? She falls in love with a guerrilla or two, but she wonders if an artist can even exist in the Revolution, which holds the labor of cutting sugar cane as the highest good. A growing sense of uselessness drives her In the edge of suicide. What brings her back is the vulnerability of her students. Toward the end of the memoir she's having trouble teaching the Graham "pleadings" (spelling it differently), which start on the floor as a contraction of despair/ecstasy. She resorts to a poem by Cesar Vallejo, and the students finally perform it beautifully, with soul. It's a transcendent moment.
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Article Details
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Author:Perron, Wendy
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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