THE BLOG

It's Time to Dance With Cuba

02/03/2015 11:41 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2015

The Malpaso Dance company is coming to Washington. I am sure that very few HuffPosters know what the Malpaso Dance company is and eight months ago, I didn't either. I read a short blurb about them in the New Yorker and how they would be performing at the end of May, but I was all hung up on the Dominican Republic and so, I sort of shunned Malpaso. Shunned until I happened to walk past the Joyce Theater after dinner one night in Chelsea.

I had just returned from Cuba and was sporting my 'one love of Cuba' bag everywhere and decided to stop in--just to see how much tickets were.

There was a stack of informational essays on the front table: "A History of Dance in Cuba", it was called and I picked it up, scanned it and turned it over to see its author.

My jaw dropped: Fernando Saéz.

Fernando was my ever-so-long-ago Cuban mentor at the Ludwig Foundation in Cuba. He and I had not spoken in seven years--communication had been difficult between Cubans and me, and though I had returned to the island twice since I studied there in 2007, I was never able to make contact.

But then, here he was in New York City. And here he was, the co-Founder of Malpaso--performing at the Joyce Theater.

And what is Malpaso, you ask?

Well, it is a mis-step. Kind of like the mis-step I made in Chelsea, walking into the Joyce Theater and discovering that Fernando and I were in the same city again, seven years later.
I bought tickets to see Malpaso the very next night. I rode the 1 train with the best kind of butterflies--the kind of butterflies that are big and beautiful so you know that whatever you're anticipating will be big and beautiful, too. I recognized Fernando from across 8th Avenue-- there's really no mistaking dark curly hair--those of us who have it, wear it proudly.

I walked up to him and he looked at me, speechless and astonished. But what was more astonishing was the exclamation coming from behind him: "¿Qué bola, chica?" said the unmistakable voice of a Cuban actress--Idalmis Garcia: my best Cuban friend from ever so long ago.

I learned Cuba through Ida. I learned the Cuban dance, I learned the Cuban speak. I learned about the mythology, about the history. We even had twin Che Guevara swatch watches--I do not know where she got them, but one morning she was asking all of us if we wanted to sport the Cuban flag on our watch bands and I was the only one who said yes. I was so paranoid taking that thing back through customs at the Miami Airport that I actually put blue tape over the face and the band so that no one would ask me if I was a revolutionary.

Ida had been living in Washington Heights for almost a year. She had left Cuba to become an actress in the United States, but still scored a role in the Cuban film, Conducta, directed by Ernesto Daranas Serrano. She lived thirty blocks north of me in Washington Heights, and I had never known. I had never known because communication had been so difficult between the Cubans and me.

The embargo put a hold on my relationships. My study abroad in Havana was but a tease--a sort of, hey, we know the two of you are in love, but you can't really see or talk to each other for seven years.

And that night, all of that changed within a matter of minutes. I saw the ghosts of Cuban pasts and it was hard for me to contain my joy.

The New York audiences loved Malpaso and the dance company is coming back to the United States at the end of February. The grey fog of the embargo is lifting and our relationship is changing. Poco a poco, we are finally talking to Cuba.

And as for Malpaso?

You can watch for yourself.

There are no mis-steps in this life--only dances.