The 'Mocombo in Habana Project', directed by Danny Mott and Roberto Riveron, involved recording 28 songs for two CD release and a film documentary about the National Contemporary Dance Company and its rich history since its inception when the Fidel Castro government took over Cuba in 1959. The dance company has performed on many world stages and is known for its interactive dance style and its compelling efforts to encourage individual expression in their choreography and live performances.
Approximately 58 minutes in length, the documentary was filmed on location in Habana, Cuba in the National Theatre of Cuba situated in the heart of Havana only a few blocks from The Plaza de Revolution and the government offices established by Fidel Castro, The National Theatre of Cuba is home to National Contemporary Dance Company.
The full-length documentary has been divided into a trilogy to accommodate web streaming. Part one, two and three are also augmented by a film short 5-minute video that gives a quick over-view into the project.
Tony Basanta of Cuban 99.9 FM Cadena Havana is also a big fan of the Mocombo´s music project in Habana. Tony has produced three one-hour specials featuring songs from Mocombo in Havana project.
Jorge Brooks, manager of Cuban Contemporary Dance Havana Cuba
"Life is full of unexpected opportunities. Having met Danny is really good chance. We are seeking new music for the company. We work with contemporary dance and a diversity of styles. We met Danny through personal contacts and gave his music to us. We are interested in his work which is based on his experiences in Cuba, its reality, its history and how Cubans manifest themselves.
Cuban music is very passionate. The first part is full of passion. As Cuban poet Cintio Vitier described, Cubans are poetry, the softness of the afternoons. Cubans are incredibly happy and very sentimental."
"The Mocombo CD recording ‘Dreamscape’ provided us with what we were looking for.
His music, I don’t know if he thought of this, is very useful for choreography.
Onel worked with his music and was able to capture the passion of the human being…regardless of where he is, in any society of at any given time in history."
"The show lasts 15 minutes approximately and features 14-15 dancers.
For both sides, it was love at first sight. So much so that Onel started to work on Danny Mott’s music from day one."
"The choreography is complete and takes into account spatial relations and stage design. It expresses a lot of feelings. Anybody who might have felt alone or isolated, this work will help them reflect on life and it will also help enrich them spiritually. The choreography will see its debut this year".
Miguel Iglesias, director of Cuban Contemporary Dance of Cuba
"This work is the result of a chance encounter between a Canadian musician and us. He is working on Cuban music. He saw the company and it was love at first sight for all of us. When he saw a rehearsal, he said he would be honoured and pleased to have the company use his music. We will debut the dance and music at the Garcia Lorca Grand Theatre this year and it will probably be used in our European tour. Osnel Delgado took up the challenge and that’s how this choreographic work started. It took him just one week to finish it and we did not want to miss this great opportunity to show our stuff. We are pleased to present Osnel Delgado’s choreography, ‘Touch’, with music by Danny Mott."
Mocombo in Habana Project
A Day in the Life of the of the National
Contemporary Dance Company of Cuba
(Script from the DVD Documentary)
Historic Overview of Cuba’s National Contemporary Dance Company
We are about to provide with a unique insight into Cuba’s National Contemporary Dance Company. You have a personal invitation to meet their directors, choreographers and musicians. Our camera will takes us into the National Theatre of Cuba situated in the heart of Havana only a few blocks from The Plaza de Revolution and the government offices established by Fidel Castro, The National Theatre of Cuba is home to National Contemporary Dance Company.
The dance company was established in 1959 after the triumph of Fidel Castro’s Revolution. Today there are many dance companies in Cuba but few have enjoyed the international success and acclaim that the National Contemporary Dance Company has enjoyed. During its 48 year history the dance company has thrilled world audiences with its unique character and style.
The vigorous daily practice of the company weaves together a tapestry of spirituality, meditation and physical endurance. The dancers rehearse to the percolating rhythms of the Company’s four percussionists.
The daily class ritual is not complete without the singer Santa Cruz’s African chants and prayers echoing through the silent hall as the dancers begin their daily routine with a meditation design to focus the individual to their creative centre.
The one hour workout ends with a communal embrace to establish a sense of unity and co-operation between all the dancers. Having dedicated years of their lives to their art, many of the dancers have graced world stages and currently teach in Cuban schools.
Join us for A Day in the Life of the National Contemporary Dance Company of Havana Cuba as we discover their exciting world of dance and music!
The following are the interviews with Cuba’s Contemporary Dance Company's staff.
Luis Robejo – Choreographer, dancer and a regular staff dancer instructor with the Cuba’s National Dance School.
It’s a very interesting question. I have always felt highly impressed by my previous teachers at the National Dance School and how they realized that contemporary dance classes required a certain element of mystery.
Now I’m very interested in transmitting my previous experiences to the children in schools and here at the Contemporary Dance Company of Cuba. Much of this knowledge has been acquired through great Cuban teachers like Patterson, Eduardo Rivero and many others.
That is precisely the reason why I always go straight to the concentration process that has impressed you so much. In the process of these rigorous training codes we go from the simplest movements to the deepest aspects of dance. It’s very useful for any dancer to begin a with a concentration exercise. From this point we do physical warm up exercises and training in many different dance codes. All this augments their further personal and professional experiences.
Nadiezhda de le Carded Valdes - Professional dancer and school instructor.
N.V. For me as a dancer the class is very important and necessary because it enriches us spiritually and physically.¨¨
During the class, we deal with concentration exercises and muscle development and endurance. While on stage, these exercises complement the multiple sensations blossoming from inside the dancer while using the finest moving techniques learned in our dance classes.
¨Isidro Rolando - One of the founding fathers of the Cuban Contemporary Dance Company.
For over 45 years Isidro has been an integral part of the Dance Company as a chief choreographer and inspiration to live stage performance all over the world.
T:B. Here we are with one of the great Cuban Dance Masters and one of its best choreographers. Your story is not easy to be summarized in just a few minutes but we would like you to tell us as much as possible.
I.R. I’m not going to narrate a long story about my life. I would like however to give you a quick and simply summary. I’ve spent over 45 years of my life dedicated to the Contemporary Dance Company. I was very young when I first arrived. During my long demure I’ve grown as a dancer, teacher and choreographer.
My life is a combination of my personal contributions to dance and what it has given me in return. Dance is like the beat of my heart!!!
T.B. There’s a new music in the Cuban Contemporary Dance Company. It has to do with a musician coming from Canada. A bass player and music composer named Danny Mott. I assume his message has produced a great expectation inside of you as a choreographer and also among the company dancers.
I.R: Danny Mott’s music has very contemporary touch because it doesn’t lose the contact with mankind. It doesn´t take the lonely road. His music lets the cat of out the bag.
For me the creation process is very important. His music produced in me many sensations. Absolutely indulgent, his music puts a little bit more shine and sensibility in our minds. When I meet a person like Danny that I can personally communicate with…WOW!!
The music is played by great musicians. It provides spirit and great shape. Importantly, musicians are not substituted for by electronics. The music resonates very deeply and that´s why I feel motivated and busy exploring ways to keep on working with Mocombo´s music.
Jorge Brooks – Cuban Contemporary Dance Company General Manager.
T.B. And now we talk with Jorge Brooks, General Manager of the Cuban Contemporary Dance Company – a company that enjoyed more than 45 years of international prestige and success.
We would like Jorge to express why the music of Danny Mott’s Mocombo has been incorporated into the repertoire of the dance company.
J.B: Life is full of unexpected surprises; for instance, meeting Canadian composer Danny Mott of the group Mocombo. After having personal contact with Danny it became obvious that doing a project with him would be a very easy going process. We are currently looking for new music to perform to. We work with contemporary dance and a diversity of styles.
The music from the Mocombo CD Dreamscape appeared to us through personal contacts. We contacted him and he supplied us with all his music creations. After listening to Danny’s music we became very interested in both his Canadian recordings and the music he has recorded in Cuba using some of Havana’s best musicians.
The music reflects Cuban reality, its history and how Cubans move…how they express themselves.
The songs of Mocombo´s Dreamscape record captured us through personal contacts and gave his music to us. We are interested in his work which is based on his experiences in Cuba, its reality, its history and how Cubans manifest themselves.
Cuban music is very passionate. As Cuban poet Cintio Vitier described, Cubans are poetry just like the softness of the afternoons. Cubans are incredibly happy and very sentimental people.
His music- I don’t know if Danny thought of this- is very useful for choreography
Choreographer Orsnel Delgado worked with his music and was able to capture the passion of the human being…regardless of where he is, in any society of at any given time in history.
The show lasts 15 minutes approximately and features 14-15 dancers.
For both sides, it was love at first sight. So much so that Onel started to work on Mott’s music from day one.
The choreography is complete and takes into account spatial relations and stage design. It expresses a lot of feelings. Anybody who might have felt alone or isolated, this work will help them reflect on life and it will also help enrich them spiritually.
The choreography will see its debut this year.
It is extremely useful in the concept of our company. Osnel was able to grasp the essence of Dreamscape’s proposal that deals with the passion and sentiments of humans in any part of the world.
T.B. I’m very happy to be sitting here in headquarters of the Cuban Contemporary Dance Company because during many years I consider myself a close hot fan and follower of all their masterpieces.
I’ve also had the pleasure to present on the Cuban Radio Danny Mott’s music recorded with outstanding all-star jazz sidemen. You will soon get their valuable exposure in this project headed under the name of Mocombo in Havana.
I’m highly impressed by young Cuban dancer and choreographer Osnel Delgado who is already dancing to Danny Mott’s music.
As a truly talented work of art, you’ll be able to find elements of passion and concept in Morsels choreography adding a new twist to the company’s repertoire.
I fell anxious to know him and introduce his new dynamic performance to a wider audience through the cameras.
Osnell will tell you why he has decided to dance with Danny Mott’s music.
Osnell Delgado - Dancer, choreographer and teacher.
O.D. Danny’s music is simply beautiful…a perfect composition for the dance and I believe that what attracted me most was its essence. The sound could transport me to a wide variety of places while its moods still exert in me many different sensations.
Through the music of Mocombo´s Dreamscape, I observe many human sensations. The every day man and woman, the common people who ask themselves ¨What are we doing here¨? The common people who speak about their everyday problems…people who face personal challenges with others without knowing why¿
The music is easy flowing. It inspires in me the necessity we have to get in touch; to love each other and to express what we suffer. I think this is the essence of the Dreamscape’s song ‘Passion Play’.
T:B. The Choreography is completely yours¿
T.B: And you dance alone¿
O.D: No. We employed more than ten dancers in the piece. The choreography deals with a character who asks himself about the things that surround his life.
The Cuban National Contemporary Dance Company Musicians
Ricardo Gomez Santa Cruz ( Santa Cruz ) Vocalist
With striking vocal control and intonation Santa Cruz sings with an emotional intelligence born out of the African religious traditions. Time has enhanced Santa Cruz’s imagination.
S.C: These chants and prays I do to begin the dance classes are just to stimulate the dancers as the dance trainer leads the company dancers through the routine rehearsal movements.
The chants become a good message for the students to concentrate themselves… we grow at the same time though the prayers. When I finish the introductory chanting I summon the percussionists to join in and improve on their own creations. The music we perform is not a specific music but rather a creative collection of the musicians, the dance trainers indications combined with improvised chants and rhythms. The music played the percussionists is heart-felt improvisation.
Over the tapestry of ¨familiar touchstones¨, I pray Yoruba chants, congo, lucimi and carabali styles. You appreciate a rhythmic bed of ¨touches and I respond with new inspirations. Our daily performance with the dance company is always inspired and is simply a music created by the ´company ensemble of Rolando, Raul and Fermin.
The music the percussionist play gets inside of me. As they create intensity I am also inspired to sing more and better.
Fermin Nani – percussionist
The music we play is what we learned in the streets of Cuba. The music is based on what takes place ¨on stage¨ with the dancers and teachers. We are widely motivated by the singer’s prays but mainly inspired by the heat coming from the dancer’s movements… we follow them!!!!
Raul Alafon Moreno is a Conga and Bata player.
Raul. As a percussionist I play with five congas to create folkloric rhythms. During rehearsals, I play arara, baga, and guaguanco always according to the exercises demanded by the teacher and dancers.
I march to the tempo of the dancers. I am inspired to continue incorporating what from inside me … nothing pre-conceived … everything is spontaneous. For a fast exercise I usually play a ‘congo’ or ‘guaguanco’ rhythm pattern to the intensity of the dancers but always following the Santa Cruz´s singing. This is the way we help to support the Cuban Contemporary Dance Company classes and live performances. It is a collective creation between the musicians and the dancers.
I have five congas so if I am able to create constantly the classes grow stronger!!
Angel Pedro Bolaños Corrales (Bolaños) is a veteran company percussionist who performs on Bata drums.
Let me explain to you about the importance of music in the dance company. First, there’s the music for the dance and the dance for the music. Why¿ The dance ensemble may be performing to music that has already been composed whether it be popular music or symphonic in nature. Some other times a choreographer from the company feels an inspiration to create a dance he has been planning and keeping in his mind for years. The choreographers always need new music.
What we did in the class today is part of the daily work routine. Sometimes during the daily class the dance instructor is captured by a rhythmic pattern from the music and says to the dancers ¨hey kids, try to remember what you have just done¨!
I play the bata hand drums but other times I use sticks looking for new sonorities and I always follow the hot rhythms created by Raul with his five congas.
General Director of the Cuban Contemporary Dance Company.
M.I. We could speak about three different periods of the Company.
The first period is from the beginning ¨The Company¨ nurtures from herself and also from the authentic Cuban traditions. In 1960 after the triumph of the Revolution there existed lots of popular Cuban stories that had never been taken to the dance stage. We searched for them. Our current dance rehearsal hall and adjacent theatres was the genesis of what was known in the early nineteen sixties as the Ministry of Culture. Our company was then known as the Department of Modern Dance.
As the Department of Modern Dance we searched for productions that represented the real Cuban roots and traditions. At the same time published works began to appear like ¨Mulato¨, Ël Mambi¨, ¨Media and the Slave Owners¨, Suite Yoruba and many others works.
In the beginning the Company executives looked a new identity, a new nationality. We witnessed the birth of a new Cuban culture. It was like a theatrical revolt and a rediscovering of our true cultural roots. We were discovering who we really were.
The second period in the Company’s history began in 1965 when we changed our name to ¨The Modern and Folkloric Dance School. We felt it was necessary to have a place where the dancers could emerge with scholastic professional abilities… a professional school of dance and performance. With this new formation and new concept we were able to unify the dance company members with a new vision that has lasted over four decades.
During this second period our aim was to maintain a high level of physical ability while also encouraging individual expression from the new people joining the company. We wanted to encourage people to simply be themselves. This concept is a very important parts of the identity our dance company. Here, each and every dancer is afforded the opportunity to be an individual with their own personality. This philosophy helped every dancer to arrive at the peak of contemporary international dance.
It was the third period the company finally evolved to become what it is today. Our name changed to become The National Contemporary Dance Company…we wanted to be more reflective of the modern times … to reflect the world today.
In 1998 we began to design a new international repertoire. We joined forces with many other world famous dance companies and choreographers. We joined forces with Franco Boletta, Assistant Director of Nova Fenice Theatre of Greece. We worked with Marke Yonfer, Director of the New Millenium Festival in Germany and the President of The Dance World Alliance in Europe. We did a project with Samuel Western from The Holland Dance Festival and we created a budget project to have an income for the arts.
Our interaction with these famous international dance companies, choreographers and artists enabled us to develop a very intellectual dance conception and a new identity. Our dance company developed new physical possibilities with complexity and endurance. We discovered new ways of acting and dancing. This new fusion was very positive and we improved both the Cuban vision of dance and how we were viewed internationally.
In regards to our dance performance history we have performed nationally and internationally for many years including tournaments and competitions. Since I began working here in 1975, with the exception of 1978, we have been constantly touring the world. Paris, London, Spain, Italy, South America, Mexico and Canada to name a few.
We have also performed selections of Zamir Akika, a disciple of Malu and Daudo , firth dancer of Pina Baut.
Philosophically speaking the internationalization process of our repertoire has not only been to search around the ´casual eclecticism´. We tried to search beyond the ´casual eclectics and ideas such as post-modernism versus modernism, the dance theatre against the traditional dance or neo-classical.
The Company is a philosophical conception very clearly defined by Pina Baut. As she stated ¨A body moving in itself. We want to encourage the individual dancer to express their most internal feelings and inspirations through choreographies and movements.
In addition we worked with English artists like Cathy Marston. Musical comedies like ¨Tony Yordano¨with the Exedia Dance Group. Their technique is based on the ¨contact improvisation method¨… together we prepared two wonderful pieces.
We have exchanged relations with ¨The Wold Germanic Dance¨ organization and works at the Bastia Bienal where our dancers performed with Karolyn Kakson.
These joint co-operations with international artists have helped widen our concept of individual expression and the importance of inspired improvisation in choreographies.
Currently we are working on projects with Max Eck, son of Brigette Cooper from Stockholm and with Kennis Quantron, an artist of Finish origin who was Director at The House of Dance in Sweden.
We have also recently incorporated a comical version of ¨Carmen in our repertoire using only men.
We are performing a production using music by Canadian composer Danny Mott of the group Mocombo,
The choreography ‘Touch’ is the result of a chance encounter between a Canadian musician and us.
Our company choreographer Osnel Delgado took up the challenge and only one week to finish it. We did not want to miss this great opportunity.
We are pleased to present Osnel Delgado’s choreography, ‘Touch’, with music by Canadian Composer Danny Mott