Alayo and Aguas Performance at Dance Mission Theater
On November 30th - December 2nd, 2018, Alayo Dance Company alongside Aguas Dance Company performed a series of performances called Bound Together at Dance Mission Theater.
Alayo Performance at MoAD
On February 8, 2018, Alayo Dance Company presented a series of performances at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco, as part of their celebration of Black History Month. The performance, which attracted a standing-room-only crowd, highlighted a variety of elements of cuban dance, beginning with a Rumba performed led by Master musicians Yoel Mulen-Robert and Jesus Diaz and featuring dancers Ramon Ramos, Jamaica Itule-Simmons, with Stella Adelman as Eleggua. The performance then moved upstairs for a mesmerizing Contemporary composition of Alayos' entitled "Corriendo," performed by Adonis Damian Martin, Edisnel Rodriguez Gonzalez, and Delvis Friñon (pictured above.) Rounding out the program was a high energy Salsa/Cabaret piece performed by choreographer Yismari Ramos Tellez along with Chloe Campbell Clark and Katy Yong. Thank you to all who came to support Alayo Dance Company!
Life is living festival Saturday Oct.28 1:30 pm
DEFREMERY PARK, OAKLAND, CA
Celebrate life with us on Saturday, October 28th at the 10th Annual Life is Living Festival powered by Youth Speaks, YBCA and Campo Santo taking place at Little Bobby Hutton Park (DeFremery) in West Oakland from 10am-7pm.
Life is Living is a community generated festival celebrating culture, music, art, politics and the spirit of Oakland through urban performance, intergenerational health, and environmental action.
Life is Living offers beauty, wellness, dance and theater zones; stages curated with the best live performances and top DJs, a vendor marketplace, and the annual free breakfast program, celebrating the revolutionary tradition started in West Oakland by the Black Panther Party over 50 years ago.
Ethnic Dance Festival
“I know of no regular event that more effectively, more movingly, recommends this country’s diverse inclusiveness than the annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.” – The New York Times
We celebrated the rich cultural diversity of the Bay Area in one of the grandest settings in San Francisco—the War Memorial Opera House.
The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival made its debut at the Opera House with two weekends of performances featuring 24 extraordinary Bay Area dance and music ensembles to thrill and inspire.
The dancers of the 2017 Festival were joined by some of the Bay Area’s most accomplished and respected musicians, including percussionist John Santos and
tabla master Zakir Hussain.
Additionally, two extraordinary vocalists performed Delibes’ Flower Duet from Lakméon the Festival stage! Soprano Maya Kherani & Countertenor Cortez Mitchell accompanied Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu during their performances on July 8 and 9.
A Piece of White Cloth
Ramon Ramos Alayo’s well-received choreography entitled A Piece of White Cloth weaves threads of modern, Afro-Cuban folkloric, and African dance into a single, hybrid composition. This work traces—in reverse and without interruption—the continuity of Yoruba movement, memory and metaphor from its roots on the western coast of Africa, through Cuba, and into Bay Area contemporary dance.
In A Piece of White Cloth, Ramos examines the nuanced cultural meanings of white cloth in Yoruba and Cuban culture. Sometimes called “spirit cloth” in Yoruba, simple cotton cloth is associated with purity, conception, healing, rainfall, milk, tears, saliva, semen, and watery spirit world. The most humble of all cloths, it nonetheless holds great transformative powers, and as such, is used in rituals including initiation ceremonies, marriages, and funerals. The spiritual force of white cloth to “heal bodies, placate spirits and metaphorically transcend the world of humans” is exemplified by this story described by Mary Kinsley in the 1890s in Nigeria:
“An old blind slave was found in the bush and brought to the Mission (near Creek Town). . . . She was in a deplorable state. . . . but her whole mind was set upon one thing with a passion. . . . What she wanted was a bit, only a bit, of white cloth. The missionaries refused to give her the cloth as it was associated with indigenous religious practices. The old woman, however, kept on pleading and saying the spirit of her dead mistress kept coming to her asking and crying for white cloth, and white cloth she must get for her, and so at last, finding it was not to be got at the Mission station, she stole away one day, unobserved, and wandered off into the bush, from which she never reappeared.”
The African concepts of plain white cloth were transported across the Atlantic with Yoruba peoples brought to Cuba in slavery. Though cultural continuity was severely disrupted under the devastating conditions of slavery, the philosophies of the motherland were tenaciously persevered on the mother island of Cuba. The worship of the Yoruba orishas flourished, veiled under a heavy mantle of Catholicism. Two deities in particular continue to manifest the meanings of the white cloth in Cuban culture:
Obatalá, (meaning “king of the white cloth”) is father of the orishas and all humanity. He is the source of all that is pure, wise, peaceful, ethical, moral, and compassionate. Obatala’s color is white, and therefore, he favors white materials, including silver and white foods.
Oyá, (meaning “she tore”) is the goddess of wind, storms, rain, fertility, destruction and sudden transformation. Oya is queen of the spirit world; she is goddess of funeral processions and cemeteries and intermediary to the ancestors. When she dances, Oya swings a horsetail.
For Ramos, white cloth—with its complex meanings and associations—is a metaphor for the cultural lineage that was torn and frayed, and yet not lost on the long journey from Africa to Cuba to the United States. Along the path of his ancestors and during his personal migration from Cuba to the Bay Area, he has dragged the white cloth wound around his body and has woven ancestral memories into his modern choreographic vision.
- Deborah Valoma
I would like to dedicate this work to my mother and father for all the love they have given me and for being my guide for life. Thank you to my mother... I am doing this because I want to bring back the memories of you. My mother died in 1984 when I was 17 years old and my sister Tania was 14 years old and my oldest sister Alina was 19 years old.
I have very little memory of my mother because I left my house when I was 11 years old to live in another city and I could only visit my house twice a year. My mother put me in the art school, but never once saw me dance. With this work, I want to dance for her, I want to say thank you for this gift she gave me. With this work, I want to demonstrate how important it is to have parents with us in our lives, to be thankful of our parents with all the good, bad and imperfection.
Three Trees and Traces
In what author Jalal Toufic calls an “untimely collaboration,” Ramón Ramos Alayo’s Three Threes is a conversation with the acclaimed Cuban choreographer Narciso Medina’s seminal work, Metamorphosis. Medina’s award wining choreography debuted over twenty years ago and has since achieved the status of cultural icon in the Afro-Cuban modern dance world. Medina called out, and a generation later, some Cuban choreographers have felt compelled to respond.
Ramos does not answer Medina’s work with a sequel, but
unexpectedly, honors his predecessor by choreographing a prequel, or rather, a pair of prequels that intersect with the third. Ramos’ dual compositions, Elements and Moments, investigate the nature of relationship and the set the stage for Medina’s commentary on the process of transformation.
Through the use of pointed titles, Ramos deftly defines the
preconditions of transformation – substance and time. Further, by elevating Medina’s piece to the final chapter and emotional climax of a narrative triad, Ramos crafts an even more forceful reading of Metamorphosis than as a stand-alone oeuvre. Ramos’s strategy in Elements and Moments is to lyrically soften boundaries, thereby intensifying Medina’s already breathtakingly intense work.
Ramos uses his signature style of close in, relational movement to poetically comment on the nature of intimacy, singularity, and unity. Cleverly using a self-similar structure, Ramos constructs a tri-part composition exactly similar to the smaller parts of itself. The braided architecture of Three Threes reflects the closeness of dancers movements. Three times, three bodies cluster in space to create three cohesive entities, which in turn, intersect to form an integrated whole.
In Traces, Ramón Ramos Alayo fuses Cuban popular dance with Afro-Cuban modern in a collaged composition of likeness and difference. Though these dance forms coexist and influence one another, rarely are they merged seamlessly in one chorographic composition. For the first time in the repertoire of Alayo Dance Company, Ramos embroiders the framework of Afro-Cuban
modern dance with threads of popular Cuban dance movement.
Ramos’s modern dancers travel the history of Cuban dance, tracing with their bodies the rise and fall of popular forms such Danzón (ca. 1879), Danzonete (ca. 1929), Mambo (ca. 1943) and finally,
Rumba. Spanning decades, these dances embody the shifting complexities of Cuban history. Each familiar gesture mirrors the multifaceted identities and economic realities of Cuban society.
In Traces, Ramos presents this lineage in rough chronological order, punctuating the modern dance vocabulary first with Danzón, typically danced in the early years of the twentieth century by the restrained upper classes. Moving through Danzonete to the lively Mambo of the fabled Havana nightlife in the 1950s, the choreography eventually circles back to Rumba, an expressive, low-bodied, street dance of the lower classes. With its distinct African origins, Rumba is defined simultaneously as a gathering, a music and a dance. Only in recent decades have Cubans, perhaps as an
expression of cultural unity, embraced the form as the nucleus of Cuban dance and music.
In Cuban popular dance, there is an emphasis on human
connection. The movements are not simply patterned steps
counted out at intervals. Rather, they constitute a visceral and visual language of relationship – personal, social, economic and racial. Referencing the intricate, and sometimes fractured, social history of Cuba, Ramos uses these popular dance forms to weave his dancers into multiple liaisons and finally into a social whole.
- Deborah Valoma
Blood & Sugar
In Blood + Sugar, choreographer Ramos Alayo fuses Afro-Cuban modern and folkloric dance with percussion, cello, vocals, and spoken word to narrate a hard-hitting, yet lyrical story of betrayal, cruelty, suffering, resistance, and triumph. Blood + Sugar traces the charged history of slavery—from the shores of West Africa, through the Middle Passage, and finally to Cuba—where the intensification of sugar cultivation in the early nineteenth-century precipitated a mass importation of enslaved Africans.
After the Rain
In his new choreography, After Rain, Ramón Ramos Alayo spins a quasi-narrative tale of constriction and release, pairing essential fears with essential elements. Early in the creative process, Ramos interviewed his dancers about their private terrors and constructed a collective choreographic framework to publicly drape their vulnerable underbellies. Putting himself and his dancers under emotional and bodily duress, Ramos’s composition pushes into fear, through fear, past fear. Earth buries, then births; ash burns, then purifies; water drowns, then cleanses.
In parts of West Africa, colors coalesce into three primary conceptual categories: whiteness, redness and blackness. Whiteness encompasses the ideas of wateriness, death, separation, and mediation with the spirit world. Redness is associated with blood, mourning and power. Most complex in this matrix of meaning is the nuanced notion of blackness.
The indivisible duality of destruction and generation is understood in the darkness of rain clouds, the potential of moist earth, the heavy smell of rotting vegetation, the impurities of the corpse, the fertile bride wrapped in pungent indigo, and the purification of green sprouting seeds. As a Cuban of African decent, Ramón Ramos Alayo obliquely cites this cluster of African concepts as he traces the poetic passage of the body through the fear, destruction, survival and renewal.
- Deborah Valoma
- 2 leaders, 1 idea
- Mis sueños mis ideas