Cuban Motion in Poinciana Choreography

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Notes from 2008 rehearsals for "A Tribute to Dunham".

In the introduction to the Pointsietta Bolero/Rumba Choreography, the question was asked about the techique that should be used for the "cuban motion". I hesitated to answer that for a couple of reasons:

  1. "Cuban Motion" as taught in contemporary ballroom looks good, but is an unauthentic version of authentic Cuban and Carribbean movement. I don't think this is what either Chester nor Anindo has in mind for this, or any other Katherine Dunham piece.

    As a Ballroom dancer, I know what a classic Ballroom Bolero is supposed to look like.  This is NOT what we want:

  2. I really haven't studied Katherine Dunham's Rumba or Bolero choreography, so I could not say what her "technique" would be in this case.

  Note the typical contemporary description for Bolero:

History of Bolero

The history of Bolero is a bit of a mystery. Bolero has the same Afro-Cuban roots as the Rumba and is thought to have originated from Cuban or Spanish folk dances such as the Danzon and Beguine. It was introduced in the United States in the 1930’s. Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in Cuba initially into 2/4 time then eventually into 4/4. The music is frequently arranged with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually implemented with guitar, conga or bongos.

What this really means is that there is a European and Cuban way of dancing this dance.  Ms. Dunham spent time studying Carribean dances, styles and techniques (Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica), this is really what "Dunham Technique" is all about.  So, to just dance Bolero/Rumba the way they are danced today as Ballroom dances I believe is a disservice to what we are attempting to do with the Dunham Tribute.

Which means I (we) need to see what Ms. Dunham actually did in this style of dancing.

One piece that I was already familiar with is Duke Ellington's "Flamingo", sung by the "Bronze Bukeroo" himself, Herb Jefferies. This number is a more of a Rumba mixed with modern and a dash of ballet: . I believe the Cuban motion you see here is natural and authentic, and not the very unnatural ballroom technique which is prevlent in this style of dancing today.

There is a link to a number of Katherine Dunham videos in the Library of Congress. A couple of the descriptions for listed videos refer to the following:

Rhumba Jive (2 minutes), title also given as Rumba with a Little Jive Mixed In); Choros #1 (2 minutes); Batacuda (1 minute); Bolero (1 minute);

This is what I need to find, but am currently unable to locate.