Danza Voluminosa – Cuba’s Plus-Size Dance Group

If you thought the world of ballet dancing was reserved exclusively for the slim and petit, well, it’s time to think again. Because the Cuban dance troupe ‘DanzaVoluminosa’ (literally meaning Voluminous Dance) is here to prove you wrong. Comprising of eight dancers and a combined total weight of over 1,600lbs (more than 200lbs per dancer), these heavy beauties have taken the tutu way past its traditional size ‘zero’.

In a recent video report on DanzaVoluminosa by the Associated Press, the founder of the troupe Juan Miguel Mas explains, “The most important thing is that it elevates the self-esteem of the overweight. It helps them to not be sedentary and get out and move, live, work, investigate and love their bodies, too.” Juan says that the purpose of the dance troupe is to find harmony, and the fulfillment of being human. The group was founded way back in 1996 and had been a hit in Cuba ever since. In 2004, it was the subject of a documentary film called Defying Gravity. Hailing from Cuba’s capital city of Havana, the group is focused on breaking traditional stereotypes and giving overweight performers a chance to realize their dreams. The dance troupe is the brainchild of Juan Miguel, who wanted to find a way to adapt modern dance techniques to suit the physical possibilities of overweight people. It has so far produced three full-length choreographies and thirty shorter works. The latest offering from DanzaVoluminosa is called ‘Crisalidas’ or ‘Chrysalis’.

Photo: Havana Cultura

Indeed, it is quite refreshing to have a group such as DanzaVoluminosa in our world, where the obsession over becoming thin and staying that way has crossed all the limits of sanity. Especially in an industry where bodies are intensely scrutinized for the tiniest flaw, this kind of an attitude towards body image is just what is needed. It was just earlier this year that Mariafrancesca Garritano, an Italian ballet dancer, was fired from La Scala after she claimed that the dance company put pressure on her to lose weight. In contrast, DanzaVoluminosa’s prima ballerina, Mailin Daza, weighs over 20 stone. Mas explains, “We provide a context for obese people to develop artistically, to create a language and a structure that helps them to interact with society.” Being a part of the company is therapeutic to its members as well, because they are able to work through the feelings associated with being overweight. In the 16 years that it has been active, the dance company has formed relationships with several prominent poets, painters, musicians and playwrights.

Photo: Cuba Absolutely

But DanzaVoluminosa is not only limited to fat people. Mas says that they have worked with dancers who have gained weight, who have retired, all those artists deemed ‘good for nothing’. They’ve even worked with dancers suffering from AIDS. “We like to find a place for all these people in our show,” he says. Mas studied at the Ballet Nacinal de Cuba, and later at Danza Contemporanea, with master choreographer Ramiro Guerra. Sometimes Mas and his dancers do not mind poking fun at themselves, especially with the troupe’s light-hearted take on Swan Lake and the comedic version of Can-Can. But for all of the passion displayed by Mas and the overweight dancers, reception isn’t always great. “We’ve played in places for the first time where people have shouted at us, ‘look at those fat people!’ We still hear giggles sometimes, but when audiences see the sense of purpose, the work that has gone into the show, our concentration – well there’s huge applause at the end.” I just watched a video of their performance and I must say, every bit of the applause is well deserved.

 

via Daily Mail


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