Cuban dancers display a varied mix of styles and skin

At the time, doing the interview in Spanish seemed like a good idea. However, reworking the conversation in English proved a little tricky.

At the time, doing the interview in Spanish seemed like a good idea.

However, reworking the conversation in English proved a little tricky.

A long way from home, Lizt Alfonzo was in Alberta on Wednesday with her all-female dance troupe, en route to Whitehorse.

From the small Caribbean nation of Cuba, Alfonzo grew surrounded by a mélange of cultures and traditions.

So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that her display of Cuban dance fuses many different styles — both classical and folk, from Latin America and Europe.

It’s what Danza Cuba is all about.

The troupe will be presenting Fuerza and Compas at the Yukon Arts Centre on Sunday and Monday.

Fuerza and Compas, which means strength and timing, is a collection of dances choreographed by Alfonzo herself.

Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Alfonzo began dancing when she was just four years old.

Although she focused on ballet and classical dance, Alfonzo still found time to dabble in many other forms of movement.

“I studied different folk dances from various Latin American countries including Cuban and Afro-Cuban dances,” she said from Edmonton, where her company was performing.

“I also studied ballroom dancing, classical Spanish dance forms and a lot of flamenco.”

Alfonso weaves all of these different styles into her own uniquely Cuban style.

“It’s very difficult for a dancer to learn all of these different styles,” she said.

“It’s difficult to be a complete dancer.”

To help foster more complete dancers, Alfonso founded a dance school in Havana.

More than 900 boys and girls currently study there.

The best young dancers are selected to dance in the Danza Cuba troupe, travelling through North and South America and Europe.

A group of her students even performed on Broadway for several months.

Alfonso started the company more than 16 years ago.

“I had a different way of seeing things and very distinct ideas about what I wanted to do,” she said.

“I started, it went well, and it grew into the large company that it is today.”

But the company’s success isn’t a huge surprise.

“We were very ambitious from the beginning,” she said.

“It was a very ambitious plan.”

All of the music in the show was composed by the company as well.

Live musicians accompany the dancers on stage, with a music style as varied as the dances.

On top of Cuban music styles reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club, audience members can expect to get a taste of classical music, flamenco and jazz.

The all female company goes through a variety of elaborate costume changes from the ruffled dresses and castanets of Spanish flamenco to more revealing, modern wear.

Alfonzo also likes to mix up the number of dancers that she sends onto the stage.

Danza Cuba is famous for its ensemble work with all 17 of the dancers executing their maneuvers in perfect unison.

However, Fuerza and Compas promises to also showcase Alfonso’s ability to choreograph unforgettable solos.

Danza Cuba is a celebration of different styles and, most importantly, a love of dance.

Alfonso is quick to answer when asked where this love for dance might have come from.

“My mother,” she said.

Although not a dancer herself, Alfonso’s mother was a passionate patron of the arts and took her young daughter to many art openings and theatrical performances.

When Alfonso was four, her mother took her to see her first ballet.

“I’ve been fascinated by it ever since,” she said.

“It will always be part of my life.”

Lizt Alfonzo’s Danza Cuba will be performing at the Yukon Arts Centre Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for children, youth and seniors

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