Danza Voluminosa - Big & beautiful 
 by Ana Lorena Fernández
 
 
If you do a double take you will not be the first. If big was beautiful the pirouettes, pliés, jetés and other classical ballet moves of Danza Voluminosa would win every beauty contest. Skinny they are not. Talented, creative and dynamic yes, absolutely, but at times, passersby may be forgiven for assuming that this is an episode of The Greatest Loser on tour in Havana. Juan Miguel Mas: choreographer, producer, costume designer and occasional ballerina for Danza Voluminosa, which he created in 1996. Listening to him and watching the group perform, you realize what a unique project he has created which cannot be easily classified and pigeon-holed. Brilliant.

 
 


Juan Miguel Mas: choreographer, producer, costume designer and occasional ballerina for Danza Voluminosa, which he created in 1996. “The idea was born of necessity,” he recalls. “I was a dancer in a dance troupe, but they used me only in special cases. I created a character for myself to play, Giant Baby, and that was the first and only time I was allowed on stage. I needed more opportunities to perform.”

The corporal aesthetics of very thin bodies has been established not only for top models but for dancers as well. The relentless pursuit of perfection of the dancers’ figures responds to certain physical characteristics that have been taken as absolutely necessary for those who want to devote their lives to dancing. However, for 15 years now, Danza Voluminosa (Voluminous Dance) has belied the notion that dancers just have to be skinny. Yes, the company’s dancers are slower and heavier--much heavier--but are as creative and expressive as their colleagues of other “conventional” dance troupes.

The founding of the company marked a turning point in the history of Cuban dance. The troupe’s performers represent a break with the orthodox archetype of professional dancers as they are unabashedly fat. Their presence on stage gives rise to new choreographic and artistic concepts that overcome preconceptions and demonstrate the validity of being “different.”

Danza Voluminosa does not seek in any way to lose weight. They work with volume, with overweight people, adapting modern dance techniques to their physical potentials and letting their feelings and emotions come out. The idea of ​​exploring dance through obesity is in keeping to the substance of contemporary dance: the pursuit of a creative spirit.

Today Danza Voluminosa consists of seven dancers (six women and one man) and Mas. The troupe has produced three full-length choreographies, 30 shorter works and has been the subject of a Canadian documentary (“Defying Gravity,” 2004). The public reaction hasn’t always been positive, especially in the early days. “We’ve played in places for the first time where people have shouted at us, ‘look at those fat people!’ We still hear giggles sometimes, but when audiences see the sense of purpose, the work that has gone into the show, our concentration, well, there’s always huge applause at the end.”
Danza Voluminosa - Big & beautiful
May 2012
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