Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f739cf0000Arts & More airs Fridays at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.Theme music: "Like A Beginner Again" by Dan Barry of Seas of Jupiter

WMU Hosts First International Dance Residents From Dominican Republic

La Compañía Nacional de Danza Contemporánea

Western Michigan University is finishing up its first international dance residency. The Dominican Republic’s national contemporary dance company - known as La Compañía Nacional de Danza Contemporánea - has been teaching workshops to WMU dance students since Sunday.

On Friday, September 16th they’ll do a free performance for the community. The show starts at 8 p.m. at WMU's Dalton Center in Studio B on the 3rd floor. Best arrive early if you want a seat - space is limited.

David Curwen is a professor in Western’s dance department. He says for several years Western has had a strong relationship with the Dominican Republic. And it just so happened that Juan Tavares - director of International Admissions and Services at WMU - has a sister who knows the company. Curwen says he was blown away when he saw the company dance and decided it was something his students should see too.

“The dancers are amazingly agile and expressive, inventive. There were things on water issues, there were things about hunger. So there was a lot of political content in their work as well as raw dance and beautiful Carribean and South American, Central American musical influences,” he says.

That description just scratches the surface of what the company is about. It's led by famous choreographer Marianela Boán - known for combining dance with projections, props, live music, and singing. She says sometimes dance is not enough to say what she’s trying to say - so she has to use other means.

“Painting or singing or using video to have a new perspective of the scene we are trying to express," she says. 

Boán lives in the Dominican Republic now, but she’s better known as pioneer of modern dance in Cuba - where she spent most of her life until moving to Philidelphia in 2002. She then moved to the Dominican Republic eight years later to form the country’s official contemporary dance company.

Curwen says Carribean nations tend to embrace the arts more than we do in the U.S. - but Cuba is also known for censoring artists. I asked Boán how the U.S., Cuba, and the Dominican Republic compare in terms of censorship. She says as an artist she’s always been restricted in some way.

“In Cuba politics was the problem, in America - morality censor me a lot. And in the Dominican somehow ignorance or lack of knowledge to know what I’m doing, what I’m trying to do with the company,” she says. 

Curwen says unlike in the U.S., dance is a part of everyday life in the Carribean. Dominican dancer Evelyn Tejeda says she didn’t go to a formal dance school. She’s a graphic designer by trade.

“I start in the streets learning from other dancers in the streets and then I got in the studios taking classes, but I didn’t graduate from a dance school. But yes I’ve been learning from Youtube, other people, taking a lot of classes and I got to the company and I grew up a lot,” she says.

Curwen says he thinks that learning from dancers who primarily speak Spanish has also been a great experience for the students.

“You still pick up on even just the way they’re saying their words. So you know if they’re trying to make something sharp and staccato, you can hear that change in their voice," says WMU senior Erzsi Bernath. "Whereas if they’re looking for something smoother and gooier, you know their voice becomes more legato." 

La CompañíaNacional de DanzaContemporánea from the Dominican Republic will do a free performance September 16th at 8 p.m. in WMU’s Dalton Center, Studio B. 

Rebecca Thiele was an environmental reporter and producer of Arts & More for WMUK. She worked at the station from 2011 to 2019.
Related Content