SUMMARY 2017: Scenic Arts, the Big Show

A year of finished anniversaries, of national celebrations, of big shows. We summarize what happened in the scenic arts in 2017.

On January 22nd, the actress and directress Fátima Patterson was awarded with the National Prize for Theater 2017. Born in Santiago de Cuba in 1951, she is the founder of Macubá, one of the most relevant theater groups. She is also an essential figure within the art of scenic orality. The National Prize for Theater acknowledged her commitment with the development of scenic arts in the eastern region, where Fátima Patterson is an unquestionable beacon.

The choreographer and director of the National Folkloric Group of Cuba, Manolo Micler won the National Prize for Dance 2017. The dancer, professor and choreographer outstand for his career, merits and distinctive creations for the Cuban scene. Director of the National Folkloric Group of Cuba, he has been known for his perseverance, hard work, and creative vocation.

The National Folkloric Group in fact celebrated its 55th anniversary with several presentations in Havana. Another important Cuban company, the Ballet of Camagüey, reached in December its 50th anniversary. A long season had as main scenario the Principal Theater of Camagüey, with the participation of several companies, like that of Rosario Cárdenas, the Contemporary Ballet of Camagüey and the Folkloric Ballet of that city.

The National Ballet of Cuba remembered the centenary of its founding choreographer: Alberto Alonso. This year also turned 60 years old the premiere of the ballet Carmen, the most outstanding work of the national choreography. To celebrate the anniversary, the company ran by Alicia Alonso offered a season of that ballet, where young dancers from the company made their debut.

The Contemporary Dance of Cuba finished this year at the Great Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso one of its greatest shows: Carmina Burana, choreography of George Céspedes, in a show accompanied by the National Symphonic Orchestra of Cuba and the National Choir. This was unquestionably one of the greatest events of the year.

During the summer, the National Circus celebrated the International Festival Circuba which has become the most significant in the region. Later in the year, some of the participants gave a tour through almost all Cuban provinces which became one of the main options for the summer.

In October 20-29 took place one of the most important encounters in the scenic arts in Cuba: The International Theater Festival of Havana, under the slogan Theater, Society, Resistance. Artists and shows from over a dozen of countries met in the theaters of Havana. Besides the scenic proposals, there was an important theoretical program. The main companies of Cuba offered their most recent plays.

The Aquelarre Humor Festival; Grand Prix Vladimir Malakov, in Holguín; the season Para Bailar en Casa del Trompo, in Santa Clara; Festival of Young Theater; next to the premieres of many of our companies marked an intense itinerary for scenic arts in 2017.

Puppets and Puppeteers

This Sunday ended the first day of Puppeteer Havana: Characters on Paving Stones. Much can do the puppets in these times...

Even in the era of smartphones and video games children are still marveled by puppets, by a simple doll that has to be a drive for creation. In the first day of Puppeteer Havana that ended this Sunday at the historical center of the Cuban capital, there were shows for all publics, but children were at the center of all the action.

For a full week, puppeteers, actors, professors, researchers, designers… participated in a huge intense program that had in several spaces of Old Havana the perfect scenario.

Erduyn Masa, general director of the event (also of La Proa Theater, the group that organized the event together with National Council of Scenic Arts, Hermanos Saíz Association and other institutions), believes that puppets are necessary in Havana as well in faraway communities of the Cuban rural areas.

"This is a very cosmopolitan area, of permanent commercial and cultural exchange. We must defend that the culture we share has ethical and aesthetic values that it can be tell apart from the purely merchandizing practices. Puppets and puppeteers have much to do in this regard."

Erduyn is completely right about it: art must open horizons, never close them. And watching the children enjoy with something so "handmade" as a puppet is prove that not everything is lost against the “merciless” impact of new technologies.

(It wouldn’t be bad, anyway that some artists from the puppet show assumed many of those new technologies in their shows, but that could be an issue to discuss some other time).

This sort of shows help to the socialization of the work of a group that is not always rewarded by the big audience… and which, up to a degree must keep working in its professional and artistic upgrading.

It must be said that: there are many groups “doing” puppets show (only in Havana there are over 30), but they are not so many that have a steady and overwhelming production.

The quality of the proposal, obviously, guarantees an audience. Children, no matter where they live, they are still an unbiased and expectant public... but nobody should underestimate them.

Every time a child attends a show, a puppet workshop or puppet production (as it happened this time), it’s a win... he is probably a theater spectator for life.

For that reason, for children, the best theater ever! Puppets with head and heart!

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