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The street-theater group Giantness burst onto the Havana art scene eight years ago
Every day, hundreds of pedestrians retrace the streets of historic Old Havana. What can perhaps be a predictable and daily trip is transformed with the mere turn of a corner: stilts, colors, juggling, live statues and catchy rhythms Chinese coronets transform the by wanderer into an actor. They, like others, become a participant in the magic that floods through the cobblestone streets of the centuries-old district.
The street-theater group “Gigantería” (Giantness) has combined perseverance and will so that —overcoming material obstacles— its fine artistic work has made it a standard for street theater in Cuba.

Some equipped with the tools of devotees, others without formal theatrical training, all are guided by a theatrical dream: to unite in the common desire of transcending the conventional limits of the art form.

A giant history It all began in 2000, when the Festival of Street Dance presented a new group of artists took over the streets with the sight of their long wooden legs and theatrical abilities.

Recalling those times, Gigantería director Roberto Rooms commented that the foundation of the work was in the community experience. He noted that the groups emerged seeing “spirit as more important than theatrical technique, and this way of thinking has marked our subsequent work in terms of its importance for the collective.”

Being based on that understanding, Gigantería presented “Ceiba and Scabby,” their first major show. In it, different artistic codes converged, but the weight of the performance fell back on oral traditions, which placed a limit on communication. This first presentation therefore demonstrated the need to support its performances with mimicry, gesticulation and music to achieve greater understanding.

The repertoire of the group has evolved. While previously its staging was directed solely only to children —with simple dramas like “The Merchant’s Trumpet” and “The Bird in the Hand Doesn’t Bite”— today others have been added with scripts that are more complex, such as “The Dream of San Juan’s Party,” inspired by the work of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Art and the street

Many elements enrich the creative work of Gigantería. Rescuers of traditions of the Afro-Cuban culture and carnivalesque festivities, this group “dialogues with history,” says Salas. In the same way that two centuries ago village merrymaking and reveries took place in the streets, Gigantería recaptures those spaces for its endeavors.

Salas explained that the work contains many variants. “We employ the technique of street dance, in the morning, where improvisation takes prominence in interacting with people.”

“We also have shows on the weekends that come closer to more established theatrical drama, with a purer stage language. In some cases, we seek greater involvement with the public through games and animation, while other times we need a more reflective spectator, as occurs with “The Dream of San Juan’s Night.”

“We have had other forms, such as literary workshops, music and of the use of stilts that have evolved together with the dynamics of the group.

“What is undeniable is that we have grown in the street, from the street and for the street, and to a great degree this has determined the characteristics of the group.”

To transform the lone pedestrian unexpectedly into a member of the public implies a constant artistic enrichment, and at the same time present major difficulties. To get people’s attention, to make use of dissimilar spaces and to transform obstacles into elements of theatrical work are some of their daily challenges.

(Juventud Rebelde)

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