WHEEL OF LIFE & QUEEN OF THURSDAYS
February 9, 2017
What is it to be a dancer in Cuba? Sunday Evening’s programing at the Dance on Camera Festival explored that idea. Two films, a short and a feature, presented very different pieces of Cuban dance history. "Wheel of Life," a short film directed by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider caught up with El Oso (‘the bear’) one of the founders of Casino dance. Casino is a pioneering form of Salsa, with a signature Rueda where the dancers move in a circle- a wheel. Desperate for something spontaneous and fun, El Oso and his collection of friends from the early days developed this dance form and watched it catch on and take fire. With pride and no regrets El Oso’s story shows the power that dance can have, being born from one specific place and time and still resonate and reach dancers worldwide.
In stark contrast to the freedom and flow of Casino, director Orlando Rojas pulls us into the dramatic, cutthroat world of ballet in "Queen of Thursdays." Rosario Suárez, or ‘Charin’ as she is know to her fans, is trapped in a cycle of being one of the best and unable to reach the peak of success. First she is stifled in her position at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba by the director Alicia Alonso, friends with Fidel Castro and beautiful ballerina. Alonso refused to give up her role of prima ballerina well into her 60s, even when losing her eyesight. Because of this, she kept Charin in the shadows, barring her from performing during the weekends, keeping her to Thursday nights.
The timeline of the film can be a bit muddled, but throughout the years Charin tried to create her own company and failed. Her fear for the safety of her family eventually led her to seek asylum in Spain, and after being denied she had no choices as a Cuban traitor than to move her family to Miami. In Miami, she tried and failed a few more times to start schools and companies, but due to her fundraising skills and sheer luck, it always fell through. Even now, as one of the great ballerinas of her generation she is struggling to put her skills to use.
Suárez’s ability to captivate an audience is not regulated to the stage- everything she says, each eye movement of gesticulation, draws the audience in more. A dramatic story and a bold personality to match, Queen of Thursdays dives the audience headfirst into a culture both strange and familiar. This tale is harrowing and ongoing, as there is no conclusion to Suárez struggles. The audeince is left with a promise of hope and a reminder that though Suárez’s rock may never reach the top of the hill, it is important to find meaning and happiness in the pushing.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Annie Woller