Danza Abierta is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary as one of Cuba's most compelling and innovative modern dance troupes. The company was founded in 1988 by Marianela Boán, a dancer and choreographer who worked with the most prestigious companies on the island (Danza Contemporánea and the National Ballet). Boán's idea for DanzAbierta (as she named it) was to enrich her choreographies with other disciplines – painting, poetry, song, music, theatre... She liked to call it "danza contaminada", polluted dance.
"Danza Abierta has always been a different kind of dance troupe," explains Susana Pous, the company's current director. The number of dancers tends to expand or contract with each performance. The dancers work closely together and with artists from other disciplines on the composition as well as the elaboration of each piece. "As the choreographer I project an idea, the dancers pick it up, and the movement arises through improvisation," Pous says. "So the movement is much more pure for the dancer. He or she is more familiar with it and the comprehension is much easier."
Growing up in Spain and studying classical ballet, Susana Pous wasn't particularly interested in Cuba. Then she attended a dance festival in Barcelona in the late 1990s and got a glimpse of Danza Abierta in action. By 2001 she had moved to Havana and had joined the company as a dancer. In 2008 she became Danza Abierta's principal choreographer. Along the way she met and married X Alfonso, one of Cuba's most widely known pop stars. While Pous was still a student in Spain her future husband was already composing music for a piece by Danza Abierta; today X (pronounced 'equis' in Spanish) is back working with the troupe directed by his wife.
Pous made the leap from dancer to choreographer when she was pregnant with Luna, her first daughter. (She and X have two daughters; the youngest is called Vida.) As her pregnancy advanced and as she continued to dance, it occurred to her to create a performance around the idea of maternity. The result was her first choreography, Que se puede esperar cuando se está esperando (What to Expect When You're Expecting). Along with Pous the dancers were other pregnant women.
On the day of her interview with Havana Cultura she is working on a dress rehearsal for MalSon, her second choreography, which first began to take shape back in 2009. Ten young dancers dressed in black – five men and five women – swirl around the small dance studio in fits and starts, coming together and pulling apart with varying degrees of violence and emotion. "The action takes place in Havana," Pous explains. "the Havana of today." She says the set decor will feature images from Havana and music by X Alfonso, and the piece will "evoke the dreams and desires of people here in Cuba."
As for her own dreams and desires, Susana Pous says she'd like to see a few more young dancers ("people who create") passing through Danza Abierta's doors. "A lot of young talent leaves Cuba," she maintains. "I think it's important for young people to apply themselves [to dance], to train themselves and start creating."