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Raices Profundas: Mixed Repertory Program at San Francisco International Arts Festival

by Joanna G. Harris
May 2, 2012
Marines Memorial Theatre
609 Sutter Street

San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 771-6900
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Welcome Cuba!

Raices Profundas is an amazing company! Andrew Wood, Executive Director of SFIAF with the help of Wilson's Travel Agents and Adalberto Aparicio, translator, managed to get this unusual company through customs at the Miami Airport and to San Francisco for an exclusive engagement at the Marines Memorial Theatre. What a show!

With no pretension to be the definitive source of all Cuban dance, Raices Profundas nevertheless gave us its African sources, its dramatic play (confrontation, comedy, seduction), and above all demonstrations of its varied multiple rhythms and complex step patterns. Lead vocalist Juana Yayma Pimentel Machado and musicians Manley Lopez Herrara and Francisco Javier Baro Almiral accompanied the twelve dancers. All are accomplished artists.

In Act One, the company presented various dances (Ciclo Yoruba: Eleguå, Yemayå, Changó,Oshún, Ogún), during which six women swooped and circled wearing flounced skirts and wrapped headdresses. The men were first costumed in similar 'colonial' outfits and carried small hatchets, but later donned long reed skirts, performing aggressive and acrobatic dances associated with various African styles. A "trickster" dressed in a funny hat and mismatched garments introduced the first events and greeted the audience. All this served to demonstrate this group's ensemble skills and conjure ancestral reverberations.

Act Two demonstrated the delightful dances usually associated with Cuba: Rumba, Cha Cha Chå, Danzón, Mambo #5, Guarapachangueo,
Salsa and Congas de Comparsas. These lively numbers were danced separately and together by the men and women; each displayed a different costume (what quick change artists!); all were marvelous.

For those of us who danced through the '50s, it was hysterical to see the satin costumes and tuxedos worn for Mambo #5, a number that dominated the Palladium in NYC. It was a moment of satire and comment, noting that we in the U.S. have much to learn about the steps, rhythms, partnering and skill so well shown here by Raices Profundas. The dancers are: Onally de la Caridad Rojas Sauchay, Ivonne Herrera Manresa, Yamilka Gonzalez Gomez, Daimi Hernandez Cabrara, Leydiana Lisbett Valdes Lopez, Gilset Mora Amador, Murray Mendendez, Reynaldo Jesus Baro Ruiz, David Casimira Marrero Hernandez, Jorge Amado Perez Machedo, Jose LuisGuzman Agiuilera, and Robert Michael Dias Terry. Bravo all!

A special note of praise is due to Artistic Director Juan De Dios Ramos Morejon who founded the company and is its teacher and choreographer. He also danced for a few minutes demonstrating his skill as a leader in partner dancing. Juan is "highly revered as a educator and is a major influence in conserving and maintaining Cuban cultural traditions".

We here in San Francisco are grateful to have seen this company.

Visit the San Francisco International Arts Festival website and watch the YouTube presentation of Raices Profundas. Then stand up and practice those steps for your next ballroom excursion.

Photo © & courtesy of Mary Kent Suministrada

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