In December 2014, President Barack Obama delivered a surprise announcement: The restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba as well as the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century. The move, he added, would “cut loose the shackles of the past” and thereby eliminate the Cold War’s last shadows.
It was good news, in particular, for Havana-based choreographer Osnel Delgado. A month earlier, Delgado had traveled to Minnesota as the 2014 McKnight International Choreographer. The program included collaborating with Minnesota dance artists and creating a new work for a local company, in this case, Zenon Dance Company. The work, which had its world premiere as part of Zenon’s 32nd fall season, was Coming Home.
Delgado described the work as “a piece about a journey,” in which the sport of baseball (beloved by Cubans and Americans) became common ground between the choreographer and the dancers, and also “a metaphor for life, confrontation, and people coming together for a common goal.”
In the work, strength and grace, athleticism and artistry, sport and art were seamlessly integrated via fleeting modern dance gestures and abstracted movements from baseball. Leaps, feints and lyricism combined in a dynamic work that was critically hailed and popularly beloved. Coming Home also helped position Delgado and his company, Malpaso Dance Company, as a breakout company ready to explode on the international dance scene. And it has.
Now, Northrop opens its 2017/2018 season with Malpaso, with Zenon making a special appearance during the show in a reprise of Coming Home, which you can preview here. Malpaso also performs the Afro-Cuban work Why You Follow/Por Que Sigues, by Ronald K. Brown, a lush work that washes across the stage; Indomitable Waltz by Aszure Barton (the Joyce Theater sent her to Cuba to create the work; a lovely background video about the experience is here); and Delgado’s own poignant duet Ocaso/Twilight.
While a homecoming of sorts, this performance of Malpaso fully demonstrates Delgado and his company have fully arrived.