Artistic Director Jose Mateo pays tribute to his heritage with “The Cuba Files,” a show of three distinct ballets set to Cuban music that explores the country’s history and universal feelings of entrapment.
The show, which runs through March 6, includes two ballets created in 2004 and the premiere of a new piece, “In Our Minds.” While “Escape” and “Danzones Baleticos” deal directly with matters of Cuban culture and history, Mateo explained that he was inspired by the music of his new work, Cuban composer Juan Pinera’s “Trio Cervantino,” to address more widespread experiences.
“I wanted to include something that really wasn’t about the national culture, but something coming out of Cuba that’s more about the human condition and global sensibilities,” he says.
Mateo explains that “In Our Minds” deals with psychological oppression, such as that of unhealthy relationships.
“[It’s about] the oppression that sometimes is self-imposed,” he says. “Sometimes we as human beings can feel trapped by our own doing and find it difficult to escape, if you will, the binds of our own psychological trappings.”
The show’s first ballet, “Escape,” deals with more literal oppression. The narrative ballet follows several Cubans who are “suspected of being dissidents,” and examines the political oppression and lack of freedom that they face. The second piece, “Danzones Baleticos,” features a popular dance form from mid-20th century Cuba.
Mateo hopes that “The Cuba Files” will broaden people’s understandings of Cuban music and dance, which he explains is often limited to salsa.
“[I want] to demonstrate how ballet, which often gets relegated to specific expectations, that it is narrow, to demonstrate that the ballet vocabulary can accommodate a lot of different styles and account for the ability to create a lot of different worlds,” the artist adds.
While Mateo has many artistic aims, he explained his hope that audiences will genuinely enjoy the performance.
“I want people to know that on a visual and theatrical level, the object is to engage,” Mateo says. “That will hopefully transport them, not just to Cuba but to other realms, realms of their own imagination.”
“The Cuba Files” runs through March 6 at the Sanctuary Theatre. Tickets are $42.