Munequitos and the Master Class

Written By ArtBurst Team
November 14, 2016 at 7:11 PM

The Munequitos de Matanzas have nearly six decades in the rumba business, and when they teach a master class, they really put their foot into it. The performance troupe, which was founded in the early 1950s in Matanzas, Cuba, specializes in Afro Cuban folkloric styles including Yoruban Orisha dances and their world famous rumba. In April, the Miami Light Project welcomed the Munequitos and a wide variety of Miami dancers and artists to their new space in the Goldman Warehouse for a free master class, under the auspices of the Arsht Center Education and Outreach office (they performed at the Arsht Center as well).. It was a great scene. About 40 of Miami’s professional dancers and stage performers hit the dance floor facing the members of the Munequitos. On the outer periphery, the room was packed with community members, artists, and observers. Miami rumberos Philbert Armenteros y Los Herederos were in the house, as well as Cuban rap icon Yrak Saenz of Doble Filo and local musician Chino Dreadlion. Altogether, they created a critical mass of rumba, clave, descarga, and exponential energies. Members of Marisol Blanco’s Sunday Afro Cuban class stood front row representing more Diaspora flavor. I was no exception. As we drank all the vibrations in, a chiseled and powerful man nodded to the musicians and nodded to us. Lead dancer and choreographer of the Munequitos de Matanzas Barbaro Ramos signaled the opening of the class. First thing on the menu: Elegua. Elegua is the Orisha, or god, that opens every ceremony or gathering of Yoruban culture. He is the messenger; the trickster spirit that opens and closes the road of destiny. Elegua also represents duality. His movements mimic the wise old man with a walking stick and the playful joker who hops, tumbles, and spins in mischief. The most difficult and challenging aspect of the dance is the embodiment of the archetype. Ramos navigates the physical sphere of metaphor and archetype flawlessly. A beautiful older woman slowly walks the perimeter staring at us intently. I have lovingly nicknamed her “la madrina,” or, the godmother. She watches over the all female student body like we were her own daughters. She corrects us in that stern and matriarchal manner typical of Cuban instructors. When she adjusts your posture and execution she is fully present and engaged in your process. Her name is Ana, a long-time member of the Munequitos. During the Rumba section, Ana leads us across the floor with the slow and sensual steps of Yambu. Yambu is the slowest of the three main rumba styles and is typically danced by older people. It is the style where the woman has the most shine, slowly enticing with outward steps of the foot and hip into the interior walls of the pelvis and base of the spine. It is a play of relishing inner sensual enjoyment outward and really, just taking your time with it. Ana makes it look as easy as breathing. But rumba is more than a dance. Rumba is a state of being, and Ana is the godmother of that very state. Photo: Munequitos perform at the Arsht Center

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