Dance Review: DanzAbierta’s “MalSon” — Retrograde

We were reminded of how difficult it is to create an evening-length’s choreography without a storyline, musical structure, or a well-developed concept

DANZABIERTA presented by World Music/ Crasharts at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, MA on March 17.

DanzAbierta performs “MalSon” at the ICA, Boston.

By Mary Paula Hunter

DanzAbierta’s MalSon at the ICA proved what we long knew of Cuban dancers: they are stunningly well trained movers. Nothing seemed too difficult for this company of five, though they are not mere acrobats. The two men and three women who make up DanzAbierta are more than physically brilliant — they are nuanced interpreters of time and space. It is as if the dancers work tirelessly on the qualitative side of technique, which lends their astounding control of their bodies texture and feeling.

Choreographer, Susanna Pous, a filmmaker as well as a choreographer, is lucky to have these artists at her disposal. As a director, she offered backdrops of clouds, views of Miami, the streets of Havana full of people and vintage cars as well as a wonderful moving set piece that took on the role of a wall, a mattress, a car, and a barrier to one suspects would be a freer life.

If only her choreography was as inventive as her visual affects. Her movement choices are limited, though a reduced palette, if its movements and phrases are inventively investigated, can be enlightening. Unfortunately, interludes of stalking steps (performed always by women in high heels) and phrases that ultimately ended on the floor or rolled through space in cartwheels and lifts (men always doing the heavy work) were never varied or developed.

So too, the hour-length piece lacked variety of tone and, worse, any internal logic and structure, so that one almost felt like the work was on a loop. Over and over we saw the same propulsive moves. An hour at full throttle soon becomes tedious.

And yet, the dancers committed themselves so fully to the choreography that they engaged with the tiresome string of movements and phrases. In fact, the contrast between their talent and the works’ lack of internal logic or development made the lopsidedness of the presentation all that more obvious.

This performance served as a reminder of how difficult it is to create an evening-length’s choreography without a storyline, musical structure, or a well-developed concept. Halfway into MalSon, I’d lost interest in the choreography and dwelled instead on its outdated hetero-normative worldview. Men lifting women and jealous women breaking up male-female couplings grew as tiresome as watching women in short skirts and high heels dance alongside men afforded the ease of moving in sneakers and pants.

These dancers deserve better.


Mary Paula Hunter lives in Providence, RI. She’s the 2014 Pell Award Winner for service to the Arts in RI. She is a choreographer and a writer who creates and performs her own text-based movement pieces.

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1 Comment

  1. Kai Maristed on March 28, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    A smart review, to the point, thanks.

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