Miguel Altunaga, a Cuban Modern Dancer Who is a Prophet in his Own Land

Miguel Altunaga (right) was trained in the Cuban art education system and after seven years with Contemporary Dance of Cuba left the country to join the prestigious British company Rambert. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, 18 January 2018 — After ten years of successes and ovations on British stages, the Cuban dancer Miguel Altunaga proves that he can be a prophet in his own country, and even in his former company Contemporary Dance of Cuba (DCC), to which he returns as choreographer with a world premiere that speaks of longing, distance and roots.

Nominated for the third time for the United Kingdom’s National Dance Award, now in the category of Best Dancer, Altunaga has become the most important name internationally in modern Cuban dance, a field dominated almost exclusively by classic artists such as Carlos Acosta and José Manuel Carreño.

For the young Havanan it is a “point of pride” to be considered an “ambassador” of the rich Cuban culture, and among his “goals” is to “show that classical ballet is not the only source of great dancers, but that Cuba also has a lot to offer to contemporary dance.”

“I feel like an ambassador who is in constant motion and constantly learning, also enriching Cuban culture,” he told EFE before resuming auditions at the headquarters of DCC, the most important company of its kind in the country.

With the recognition also comes the “obligation to be an example” for new artists and to return to teach the new dance trends on the Island, where despite the “shortages and problems,” the “desire and passion for art” continues, he insisted.

Miguel Altunaga was trained in the Cuban system of artistic education, and after seven years with Contemporary Dance of Cuba he left the country to join the prestigious British company Rambert, as a member of which he has received awards and applause inside and outside the United Kingdom.

To his successes of interpretation he has added a rising career as a choreographer, with works that make up the repertoire of the still young Acosta Danza, the company that Carlos Acosta created in Havana.

A decade later, Altunaga arrives to set up a world premiere entitled Beyond the Dust that draws from his personal experience and delves into the feelings of distance, longing and nostalgia, with a “little sense of humor.”

“I don’t expect viewers to see a linear, traditional story, where you know what is happening step by step, but to live an experience, to relax and enjoy it, which is very important,” he explained.

For this, Altunaga uses emblematic musical themes such as Aquí el que baila gana (Here the dancer wins) from Los Van Van orchestra, danced by the young cast of the DCC.

Beyond the Dust also serves as an appreciation and tribute to Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, to which he has always felt “close” despite the distance.

“I feel like I didn’t leave. (…) To come to Cuba and present my work in the Sala García Lorca — the largest in the Gran Teatro de La Habana — is a dream, and to see it already realized (…) one of the greatest things that is happening to me in my artistic career,” he said.

This return is “very special” for Altunaga, who tries to minimize the “pressure” on him and “enjoy the process” of assembling the piece, which will premiere on 9, 10 and 11 February.

The biggest difference for the artist is in working with an ensemble that is not as “cosmopolitan” as the cast of companies from outside of Cuba; a place where the artistic collectives are composed exclusively of locals, with a shared way of seeing art.

However, being on the island for so long has made Altunaga “feel again” that sense of “Cubanness” that he will take with him back to Rambert.

“I will return [to the UK] a completely different artist, because I have reconnected with my homeland. I think this is the first time I’ve spent so much time in Cuba since I left ten years ago. Cubanness is entering me again,” he joked.


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