I’ve got a new review of Ramon Ramos Alayo’s “A Piece of White Cloth”–part of Dance Mission Theatre’s Cuba Caribe Festival–now up on Voice of Dance:

“It is a curious disappointment that many self-described “ethnic fusion” dances are more fixated on returning to cultural purity than on forging true innovation. At least two pieces in February?s Black Choreographers Festival journeyed backwards in time from a bland blend of modern dance and watered-down Brazilian or hula elements, and toward the Genuine Article itself. Now Ramon Ramos Alayo has taken the same tack with Afro-Cuban forms in his full-evening work, A Piece of White Cloth. It starts with Alayo?s flashy but conventional “Afro-Cuban modern dance” vocabulary and finishes with a tribal rain ritual that may not be entirely traditional but is certainly absorbing. This approach has the advantage of finishing strong?but the drawback of loading a lot of silly gobbledy-gook up front . . .

To be certain, Alayo was smart in choosing an arresting and highly adaptable visual symbol. As Deborah Valoma?s excellent program notes describe, a white piece of cloth has the power to “heal bodies, placate spirits and metaphorically transcend the world of humans” in both Cuban culture and the African Yoruban culture that fed it. In Alayo?s work, the wings are hung with white fabric, and a band of musicians winds through, holding out the cloth and offering solace and spiritual connection.

Alas, a recorded score by Niki Reiser takes over, blasting through the theater with the bloated banality of a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Aja Rendall, Laura Serghiou, and Patricia West Sotel stand majestically atop rolling white bins; soon Alayo, Oscar Trujillo, and Jose Francisco Barroso emerge through their legs. Men and women alike wear flowing white skirts that ripple with every sweeping rond de jambe. Much writhing ensues. The showy unison lifts and dead-serious rolling about on the ground look more than a little like one of the choreographic interludes between stunts at a Cirque du Soleil show.”

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