WORLD PREMIERE / Peru
Cunamacué presents Barrer—Sweep—Afro-Peruvian dance for the twenty-first century. The music is an instrumental version of Hay Que Barrer, Victoria Santa Cruz’s song about sweeping away injustice and racism. Dancers perform a symbolic cleansing with makeshift brooms, their bright green plants symbolizing nature’s sustenance. The everyday setting honors self-sweeping as a regular practice: clearing the path before beginning the journey.
Artistic Director Carmen Román is the choreographer, and in Barrer she merges contemporary movement with Afro-Peruvian movement vocabulary and zapateo footwork. The festive rhythm is the festejo, a dance born in Peru’s colonial era among communities of African origin. It’s a dance of celebration, agility, and freedom, with easy movement in the spine, pelvis, and hips, and along with its constant companion, the cajón box drum, it’s the representative artistic expression of Afro-Peruvian culture. Pierr Padilla is music director and the Afro-Peruvian music is played by his group Huarango, on violin, bass, guitar, congas, and cajón.
This piece follows in the lineage of Victoria Santa Cruz, reclaiming and celebrating Peru’s African heritage with smart, contemporary, self-expression. Santa Cruz (1922-2014) was an Afro-Peruvian choreographer, composer, and activist known as the mother of Afro-Peruvian dance and theatre, best known for reviving and recreating the zamacueca. She worked tirelessly in the 1960s and 70s to elevate Afro-Peruvian artistic presence, emphasizing dance as a form of self-discovery, accessing cultural ancestral memory through rhythm. Performances led by Cruz and other prominent Afro-Peruvian dancers reclaimed African dances and rhythms as Afro-Peruvian cultural heritage and not just as entertainment for the predominantly white colonial population, awakening black consciousness and pride.
Cunamacué, based in Oakland, was founded in 2010 by Artistic Director Carmen Román. The company promotes the continuity of Afro-Peruvian culture, representing a living, vibrant, and evolving form whose music and dance can be used as a means of contemporary expression. The name Cunamacué is a reminder that the work is based on ancestral roots, one to be left for future generations. The word “Macué” is representative of the ancestors; it is a stream in Mozambique, one of the places from which Africans were uprooted and taken to Peru. “Cuna” is the Spanish word for crib, representing future generations.
July 13 & 14
Dance Origin: Peru
Artistic Director: Carmen Román
Choreographer: Carmen Román, in collaboration with Pierr Padilla
Costume Design: Rose Harden
Dancers: Pierr Padilla, Carmen Román
Musicians: Huarango: Miguel Ángel Becerra (cajón), Kyla Danysh (violin), David Pinto (bass), Pedro Rosales (congas), Javier Trujillo (guitar)
Photo: RJ Muna