Choreographer Miguel Azcue beautifully combined elements of Cuban and Scandinavian dance in his double-header presentation of Crisalida and Possible Impossible at this year’s Vancouver International Dance Festival on March 11 and 12.
Over the course of four years, Azcue traveled back and forth between Memory Wax, the dance company he co-founded in Sweden, and Danza Teatro Retazos, his dance company in Cuba, to orchestrate these collaborative pieces which incorporated artists from both countries.
“The result is striking dance that draws on the rhythmic movement of the Caribbean island nation and the contemporary edge, as well as the theatrical imagery, props, masks, and multimedia touches, of his work in Sweden,” wrote Janet Smith, style and arts editor for The Georgia Straight.
Azcue’s cross-cultural work as an artist reflects his background as a TCK. Azcue was born in Cuba and grew up between Cuba and Scandinavia. He has worked as a dancer in Ecuador, Norway, Cuba, France, and Sweden and earned his Masters of Fine Art from the University of Utah. This experience was essential to the creation of Crisalida and Possible Impossible.
“Everything works perfectly [in Sweden], and in Cuba you don’t know if things are going to happen on time. They’re two totally different worlds and two different ways of living your life, and there’s so much in the middle to learn,” he shared in his interview with Smith.
Crisalida and Possible Impossible flirted with the middle of these cultures in different ways.
Crisalida combines Afro-Cuban music, movement, and lore with Scandinavian theater. It incorporates elements of contemporary dance, hip-hop, and pantomime from both Cuba and Sweden and tells a story about the struggle to obtain both personal freedom and communal belonging that speaks to all cultures.
In its announcement of the piece’s upcoming presentation, the Vancouver International Dance Festival described Crisalida as “a performance about belonging and identity portrayed with humor and poetry.”
Possible Impossible plays with the boundaries of reality and illusion, as it combines the passion and movement of contemporary Cuban dance with the stage technology commonly used in Swedish and European dance.
Coordinating the collaboration behind these two pieces was no easy feat. “I have to travel a lot,” Azcue shared in his interview with Smith. “It is a bit crazy. I don’t get used to the hours in one place and I already have to go back to the other. Or I have to get used to the snow again. But I like this combination of cultures—and weather!”
Azcue struggled to overcome cultural differences as well. In an interview with Kelsey Klassen for The Westender he said, “Even the sense of time for people in Sweden is different than the sense of time for people in Cuba, in terms of punctuality.”
Azcue saw these challenges as positives for the creative process. “Challenges can sometimes be an inspiration for solving problems another way, so we don’t see them as negative things, and many times they bring good things,” he shared in his interview with Klassen.
“Like, in Cuba, you cannot take things for granted, and finding very simple things, like finding nails to put a table together, can be very difficult. So you can maybe come up with a solution that is so creative that you use it in many other ways,” he added.
Azcue’s efforts certainly paid off. “Possible Impossible and Crisalida were pieces that showed great imagination, theatricality, innovative use of video projection, fluid movement by terrifically talented dancers, and well-crafted choreography,” said Jay Hirabayashi, producer and curator of the Vancouver International Dance Festival.
“This presentation of Memory Wax/Danza Teatro Retazos was Vancouver’s first introduction to Cuban contemporary dance,” he shared. He felt that this was vital to the dance community. “If dance is to grow, it has to constantly explore different ways of movement expression.”