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The company performed for one night only at UNCG, but they are touring and can be seen as close as Nashville, TN., Virginia Beach, VA., and Charleston, S.C. (Spoleto Festival USA) in coming weeks.
West African, Caribbean, and Spanish influences – rumba, flamenco, mambo, and more – could be seen and heard throughout the Cuban company's performance, but Malpaso's choreographers, dancers, and composers have taken these inspirations and transmuted them into something completely original and eccentric.
"Malpaso" is Spanish for "misstep," but, rest assured, there weren't any in this performance.
The evening began with a solo, "Lullaby for Insomnia," choreographed in 2021 by Daileidys Carrazana, a co-founder, associate artistic director, and dancer with the company. Performed by Heriberto Meneses to music by Jordi Sabatés, "Lullaby" explored contrasting lyrical and quirky movements, qualities that emerged as characteristic of the company as the evening unfolded.
With his splendid control and spectacular wingspan, Meneses inhabited the complex choreography, internally rotating his shoulders and knees, then expanding his muscular arms and legs into near infinity.
The lighting design by Guido Gali contributed to the success of the piece, highlighting Meneses' gorgeous extensions of limbs and spine, and minute articulations of hands and feet.
Costumed in a full-length, stretchy, and fluid orange dress, Acosta commanded the stage until she encountered the table and became seemingly enthralled by it. She crossed the stage swinging her hips sensually interspersed with pulsing pliés. She slithered and poured her lithe body around the table legs. Acosta made great swimming motions with her arms and articulated her feet exquisitely. Several times, Delgado stepped onto the table in one impossibly smooth motion; later, he pranced across the stage buoyantly. Wearing a loose, off-black suit, Delgado seemed slightly subjugated to Acosta, although he had the last word, so to speak.
Robyn Mineko Williams choreographed "Elemental" in 2019 to music by various composers, including Ernesto Lecuona, Panda Bear, and Tim Rutili. On her website, Williams says, "We like to create worlds that move, ignite, transport and connect us." And that is exactly what she has done here. Ten dancers gradually emerged onto the stage, coming together and moving apart in stylized social dances to wildly percussive music. The street clothes and couple-dancing contributed to the feeling that we were peering in on a particularly talented group of club dancers taking it to the limit.
What was remarkable about the final piece, "Stillness in Bloom," the only dance after the intermission, was its initial simplicity. For the first part of the piece, the dancers, again in street clothes, a couple of bright T-shirts, shorts, and trousers, repeatedly ran backwards for four counts and stopped. Again and again they did this, one after another in small groups and individually, until finally toward the end of the section, one or another dancer would change it up by running forward a few steps. The whole bit was hypnotic, fascinating, and wondrous in its repetitiveness.
Choreographed by Aszure Barton, with music by Ambrose Akinmusire, "Stillness" provided a showcase for many of Malpaso's extraordinary skills: holding leg extensions for implausibly long times and flowing into one another until they seem almost indistinguishable, the latter supported by lighting from Nicole Pearce.
At the end of the piece, the dancers returned briefly to the backward running and drifted off the stage until one lone figure remained, bathed in light, folding himself into a smaller and smaller ball, finally extinguished by darkness – dramatic, vulnerable, timeless.
If you love contemporary dance, find a way to see Malpaso soon. In the meantime, you can catch them on YouTube.