Finding freedom inside the box Cuban Experience II By Sasa Pust

Do not try too hard

This time, I would like to pick up where I finished my last years’ lines of the Cuban Experience blog: “The purpose of our Mission Cuban Experience was to go “back to Cuba”, to the roots, feel the Passion of their dance, find ideas and inspiration and bring them into the Future. Hopefully we did this with minimum of filters – bring as much authenticity as we possibly could and translate it into our world of Competitive Latin American dances. I believe the time is ripe for this development – we don’t need to impress all the time. It is so exhausting and insincere. We should feel more, express more and do less.  It is like a “secret technique”, that Robert de Niro and Anthony Hopkins advise for great acting – Do not try too hard – it will only look unconvincing….

People always respond positively to honesty, authenticity, clear message, innovation and true feelings that come from inside. Let us create an inspired and inspiring future for our Latin American dancing!” Last years’ experience was merely scratching the surface, although it touched all of us quite profoundly, gave us food for thought, inspired us, and made us think how to use what we have experienced in our competitive Latin American dancing. There is no doubt – I think the majority of top Latin teachers would agree – we have reached a “plato” from where we have to leave, if we want to keep our “style” creative, alive and developing.  Just by diligently repeating the same ideas, routines, approaches, and hoping something will change is not going to bring new development.  As Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used, when we created them”.  In order to make a shift in our thinking, this years’ Cuban Experience went deeper still, and peeked “behind the curtains” to see the inside story of this authentic style.  All through the year I had this puzzling thought going through the back of my brain: How is it that despite of all the restricting economical and political circumstances Cuba is facing, their dancing, music and their authentic culture seems to be free – not only that – it is vibrant, flourishing and developing without obstacles? They live “inside the box” and yet, they are influencing artists, dancers, musicians all over the world. In a way, they “lead the way”.  How can this be possible?

This year, the answer presented itself!

We are all very happy that we are able to live in the Western Culture that prides itself so much for being free and democratic.Because it is allowed and encouraged, we have arts, science and culture developing in all dimensions and directions. Our competitive Latin American dancing developed in the same spirit of total freedom. We went outwards and onwards, polishing our style and performances, impressing our audiences all over the world. All in the spirit of competitiveness. Our culture is based on outward expansion, conquering territories, adversaries. Our gazes and poises are towards the sky, towards heaven. (Even though a lot of people are atheists, the basis of our culture is Christianity) We aim for perfection.

This concept allows for a lot of freedom and with it we can develop wonderful new ideas and styles, but the downside to this freedom is, we can become rather shallow, empty and with a technique that lacks intuition, authenticity, feelings and sincerity. In other words – because of all the outward expansion, we have spread ourselves rather thin. On the other hand, in Cuba because of all the historical and political circumstances, people found themselves stranded on an island that literally prevented the time from ticking. Everything slowed down and while Western World progressed and stretched its brains and muscles outwards and onwards, Cubans found another way, deeply rooted in their African origins and religion – Inwards!

Their culture/religion – Santeria – has one very distinct difference from ours. They look down to Mother Earth for their saints and gods.  In order to gain their freedom they go inside. Because their dancing and understanding of music is so profoundly connected to their intuition, feelings, sensuality and even spirituality, they found their freedom inside themselves and their frame of steps. They explore all the time into the movement, into the music, into the rhythms and into partnering. Their dancing is meant for enjoyment and having good time, they do not have this strong, direct urge to impress and compete. This is actually a big luxury!  Because of their “illusionary confinement”, the time stopped and the Cubans had all the time in the world to develop their style in peace and quiet, almost like a Meditation. As a result, they created authentic style of music and dance that influences dancers and musicians all over the world.

To find the cure

And so we face this strange paradox – In the free Western World, we have developed our amazing style of Latin American dancing which at this point in time feels like a confinement – a box.  Whereas on the other hand in Cuba, despite all the restrictions, people found their freedom inside their culture and music, inside accepting themselves for what they are….To find the cure or fuel to leave the plato we found ourselves onto, we need not follow Cubans word for word in their style, but to translate their ideas, ways of thinking and feeling into our world and circumstances. Finding the right balance between going outward in performance and going inward in feeling and expressing is an art, but we do say that our style is an art and we love challenges….

Sasa Pust Ule, Slovenia

1 comment
  1. I find this article very “black and white” glorifying the “cuban way” of executing dance and rather giving a very negative touch to the approach of the “western world way” of performing dance, not taking into consideration that there are nuances on both sides.
    – Are cuban men always just dancing for the joy? Don’t they also dance to impress (women)? To meet a cuban woman to have good sex with? To meet a ( from their point of view) wealthy “western” woman to get out of the country?
    – Don’t western boys and girls also often just dance for the joy? Whithout thinking about impressing anyone?

    For my taste, too many “We and us” and “They and them”. Too much generalisation (“Their culture/religion”; “their dancing” … etc.). Having travelled various times all over the island/the country I have witnessed many cubans not having honesty, authenticity, clear message, innovation and true feelings that come from inside; rather the total opposite; striving for economic advantages over the neighbour next door – surpassing the mere limit of everyday survival. I met many cubans who were taking every chance to cheat on even friends to take advantage, not even trying to do it in secret, but unashamedly and obvious to others, which is rather roumered to be often characteristic of “western” people.

    I especially do not like this phrase: As Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used, when we created them”. There are “problems” to be solved? mhmm… by whom? The participants of Cuban experience? By the “western dancing world”? I do not have the feeling that dancing has ever created any problems anywhere in the world, that have to be solved, no matter how and why people dance.

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