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Friday, February 21, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dance Preview

Spanish dance with a Cuban flair

Special to The Seattle Times

Dance Preview


Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, 8 p.m. Thursday, next Friday and March 1, Meany Theater, University of Washington, Seattle ($32; 206-543-4880 or www.meany.org).

Apparently, Americans could use a little feisty dancing right about now. When asked how U.S. audiences are responding to the national tour of Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, company manager Manuel Arroyo answers, "Superb — sometimes they react even more than in Cuba, with shouting and standing ovations." Maybe all that stamping and clacking just feels too cathartic to resist.

Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, resident company of the Gran Teatro de Havana, is currently touring "Fuerza y Compás," a two-act suite of brief dances based in the flamenco tradition but with a distinctly Cuban spin. Translated as "Strength and Measure (or Rhythm)," the performance features 22 female dancers and eight Cuban musicians who accompany the dancers onstage.

"The musicians are part of the show," Arroyo says, which, in his view, makes the experience "more powerful, more bright."

The program offers a vivacious mix of Cuban styles, from 19th-century Spanish-dance traditions through modern-day Afro-Cuban adaptations. "It's a cocktail," Arroyo explains, "Our shows are a fusion of many different elements — you cannot see the seams."

Lizt Alfonso, the 34-year-old founder, director and choreographer of the company, is widely considered by her compadres to be one of the most important figures in Cuban culture today. She expressed her longing to be a dancer early in childhood, and while training in classical ballet she found inspiration in Alicia Alonso, Cuban "prima ballerina assoluta" and UNESCO Goodwill ambassador.

But Lizt's love of ballet was equaled by her desire to create a company focused on Spanish dance, a dream that became reality in October 1991, when she established Dance Cuba.

Arroyo, however, is quick to point out what makes this company unique. "If you say it's a Spanish dance company, people will say you are trying to imitate the Spanish way of dancing. We don't do that," he clarifies. "We use Cuban rhythms, music and techniques to dance the Spanish dances. We do Spanish dance the Cuban way."

"The Cuban way" also means a love of the art that is virtually instinctual. "Music is inside of every Cuban," Arroyo explains. "Dance is inside of every Cuban." He believes this native aptitude is noticeable onstage.

"These dancers have incredible energy and sensuality," he says. "They deliver to the audience all they have inside, heart and soul."

Brangien Davis: brangiendavis@yahoo.com

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