Dos Alas/Two Wings
There's an urgency to the social dances of the Caribbean that derives from a belief common among African religions: that music and dance can call forth the gods, or orishas. "From the harsh world of plantation Cuba to the mean streets of New York, the orishas allow the community to show [the] love that can only 'descend' or emerge from the hard work of the dance," writes Joseph M. Murphy about the Cuban religion of Santeria in Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora. "The orishas are 'called' by their drumbeats, but they also 'are' these rhythms, vibrations of the spirit of the community." When a dancer reproduces the beat of a drum or rhythms of a shakere in his body, he's acting in concert with the music to bring to life a third entity, a spirit that will revitalize not only himself but his community. That's the tradition behind both the Puerto Rican group Los Hermanos Cepeda and Grupo AfroCuba de Matanzas, who perform together on a program called "Dos Alas/Two Wings" (the name comes from a 100-year-old poem describing Puerto Rico and Cuba as two wings of the same bird). The tradition's intensity doesn't preclude entertainment, however--far from it. These dancers have honed their technique for years and it shows, especially in the virtuosic dancing of the men in Grupo AfroCuba de Matanzas. This double-barreled show--which also includes a collaboration combining the bomba and the rumba--opens its first U.S. tour this weekend in Chicago, Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3 and 7:30 in the theater of the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; $20, $16 for MCA members. Call 312-397-4010 for tickets and information. --Laura Molzahn
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Grupo AfroCuba de Matanzas photo by David Garten.