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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

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En su 17 aniversario, Festival Ife-Ile recuerda al Mariel

Photo: Photo credit: Nelson Alvarez
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El éxodo del Mariel (1980) fue uno de los capítulos más dramáticos en la historia del exilio cubano, inesperada crisis migratoria para los Estados Unidos, y desafío de proporciones colosales para el sur de la Florida.

Con el pasar del tiempo, es fácil olvidar y caer en la complacencia. Por ello, muchos cubanos como Neri Torres consideran imprescindible destacar y mantener vigente este hecho histórico en la memoria y en el corazón.

Torres no vino a este país por esa ruta tan caótica, pero sí lo hicieron familiares de ella. En honor al 35 aniversario del éxodo, Torres estrenará Contra viento y marea, coreografía inspirada en este drama humano, dentro de la décimo séptima celebración del Festival Anual de Danza Afrocubana IFÉ-ILÉ que ella dirige.

Este año, el festival, que tendrá lugar del 20 al 22 de agosto en el Miami-Dade County Auditorium, viene más impactante que nunca gracias al respaldo de una beca Knight Arts Challenge que su compañía de baile y cultura afrocubanos IFÉ-ILÉ Dance Company recibió el año pasado.

“[El Mariel] fue un evento histórico, trascendental, para Cuba y también para Miami”, comparte Torres con Artburst una tarde durante uno de los ensayos de sus bailarines en el African Heritage Cultural Arts Center de Miami. “No toda las gentes que vinieron eran malas, ni delincuentes, ni malhechores. Hubo muchos que se hicieron profesionales aquí”.

Torres hace esa aclaración dada la mala fama que durante años persiguió a las miles de personas que salieron de Cuba por el Puerto del Mariel -- apodadas entonces “marielitos” -- con los criminales y enfermos mentales liberados a la misma vez por Fidel Castro.

“Al final”, afirma Torres, “la historia es positiva”.

Ese aspecto positivo es uno que la coreógrafa, directora, y fundadora del festival considera se debe resaltar como ejemplo no sólo de lo que los inmigrantes cubanos han alcanzado, sino de lo que los inmigrantes en general pueden lograr.

“La idea también es rescatar el trabajo duro de los inmigrantes, porque los inmigrantes no son solamente para verlos de mala forma”, considera Torres. “Como decía mi mamá, ‘Caras vemos, corazones no sabemos’. Con una oportunidad, mucha gente puede salir adelante”.

La expansión

Salir adelante es justo lo que ha hecho la propia Torres desde que llegara a este país en 1991. Oriunda de La Habana, estableció en Miami su grupo de música y danza afrocubanas con la idea de preservar y expandir estas vertientes artísticas. De hecho, la palabra “Ifé” significa “expansión” en la lengua yoruba.

Torres ha enseñado bailes afrocaribeños y su historia en distintos centros educativos, incluyendo Miami Dade College, e IFÉ-ILÉ ha cosechado triunfos como haber colaborado con las estrellas musicales Celia Cruz y Gloria Estefan, y haber figurado en la película The Lost City (2006), entre otros logros.

Todo siempre a pulmón, aunque reconocido cada vez más.

“Con la grant de la Knight Foundation, fue posible expandirnos”, destaca orgullosa Torres. “Ahora tenemos más recursos y estamos contentos con eso. La pedí para hacer esta pieza y para promover y aumentar las actividades del festival”.

Se suman más talentos

Asistiendo a Torres en la producción de Contra viento y marea hay veteranos cubanos de las artes en y tras el escenario: José Coro, diseñador a cargo de escenografía e iluminación, y Atanasio Mederos, coreógrafo y bailarín que actúa como un segundo par de ojos para Torres.

“Ella está haciendo algo muy profesional, algo muy interesante con respecto al Mariel, con movimiento y con sincretismo religioso”, destaca Coro, quien conoce a Torres de Cuba y laboró con las principales compañías de baile de ese país, Ballet Nacional de Cuba y Danza Nacional [hoy Danza Contemporánea].

“Este trabajo es muy importante, porque son las raíces cubanas”, considera Coro, en el sur de la Florida desde 1977. “Toda la música cubana está arraigada en esta cultura”.

Aportando también en calidad de reggiser o director de escena está Atanasio Mederos, quien conoce a Torres desde los tiempos de ambos en Cuba. “Siempre hubo un vínculo artístico y personal de amistad entre ambos”, relata Mederos, con una carrera internacional en el baile y en el teatro que lo llevó a trabajar en mercados como Guyana, México, y Colombia.

Aunque lleva sólo poco más de dos meses aquí, Mederos reconoce el significado de una pieza como Contra viento y marea para el sur de la Florida.

“Se está narrando un hecho cultural y político”, analiza Mederos. “Todo el pueblo cubano se va a ver reflejado ahí, pero también el pueblo migrante de otros países. La obra tiene movimientos muy originales y propios, con música popular y la religiosa muy bien integradas”.

Para Torres, Contra viento y marea “es un canto de optimismo”, y marca la primera vez que ella abarca la temática del que abandona su tierra y sufre el desarraigo, pero al final triunfa. Torres indica que cada festival trata de aportar algo nuevo creativamente, que a la vez destaque las contribuciones positivas de la comunidad cubana. Y la comunidad de los llamados “marielitos”, no iba a ser la excepción.

“Los cubanos que vinieron por el Mariel trajeron los tambores batá, el baile Rueda de Casino (salsa cubana que se baila en círculo y con grupos de parejas), y la religión afrocubana”, resalta. “De cierta manera, todos los inmigrantes han podido hacer algo positivo de su vida”.

Festival Anual de Danza Afrocubana IFÉ-ILÉ, del 20 al 22 de agosto. Talleres, presentaciones, paneles en Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami. Tel.: 305-547-5414. Panel de salsa y son a las 5:00 p.m. el jueves gratuito y abierto al público. El viernes a las 8:00 p.m. la “Noche de Salsa”, con grupos de salsa de Miami y Nueva York. Boletos: $15 - $25. Estreno de “Contra viento y marea” el sábado a las 8 p.m. Boletos: $20 - $30.

Luego de la presentación final, habrá fiesta con música en vivo a las 11:30 p.m. en CubaOcho Art Center, 1465 SW 8 St. Entrada a la fiesta: $10.

Más detalles:

O puede llamar a los teléfonos 786-704-8609 / 305-796-1125.



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Journalist, arts writer, instructor of English and Spanish

A bilingual journalist and writer for over 20 years, Juan Carlos studied Communications at Fordham University in New York. He holds a Master&rsquo..

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