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Liszt Alfonsos Danza Cuba heats up Canadian stages
"I met this man in the street and he said, 'What? Cubans coming here at this time of year when all the Canadians go to Cuba to take in the sun?" says Alfonso. "So I told him, 'We come here and bring a little part of the sun from Cuba to all the people who dont get to go there!"

In spite of some peoples initial suspicions, the dynamic, fiery troupe of 20 dancers and six musicians has been enthusiastic standing ovations so far. And it turns out that, surprisingly, the dancers are as impressed with our cool climate as Canadians have been with the Cuban company.

"Its fantastic! Everybody is very happy because theyre seeing the snow," she laughs. "But then, its easy for us, because we know in one months time we can go back to the beach again."

Alfonsos company has been lighting up Canadian stages with a unique fusion of dance styles found in Cuba. Her choreography mixes Spanish flamenco, African and Cuban national dance together, touching it up with some classical ballet, which adds a controlled, flowing grace to the percussive, lively movement.

The dancers perform cha-chas and mambos among other well-known dances set to the sounds of a wide range of Cuban and African percussion instruments, as well as keyboards, piano, bass, flamenco guitars; and the tres"a three-stringed guitar which Alfonzo says is very difficult to learn to play.

Of course, Alfonzo, a musician herself, is used to mastering difficult things: she founded her company in Havana in 1991 when she was just 23 years old, and has built it from the ground up.

"In the beginning, we didnt have anything, so we worked very hard," she says, adding that eventually the government began to take notice, and after several years began to support the company, recognizing it as a major arts organization in Cuba.

And now, along with her successful company thats toured internationally, her school in Havana is also flourishing. She has approximately 900 students, and while thats a strong indication of the groups popularity, it also points to the fact that dance is a big part of Cuban culture.

Ask her why she thinks dance plays a smaller role in Canadian culture than it does in Cubas, and she has a pretty logical theory.

"I think its different here because of the weather," she says. "In Canada, everybody wants to be at home and staying warm. But in Cuba, its completely the opposite. Everybodys out dancing."


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