After viewing the Malpaso Dance Company at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, it is clear why it has become so popular and how it has gained its international status as the most sought-after Cuban dance company. Appearing for only one day as part of the Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center, I hope that the company returns to Los Angeles often. Founded in 2012 by resident choreographer and Artistic Director Osnel Delgado, Executive Director Fernando Sáez, and dancer Daileidys Carrazana, the company consists of eleven extraordinarily talented dancers, choreographers and designers.

Malpaso Dance Company – Photo by Bill Herbert

Osnel Delgado, who is an amazingly versatile dancer, performed in, choreographed and collaborated with the dancers to create the very entertaining 24 HOURS AND A DOG. The exciting and spirited music is by Mexican born composer Arturo O’Farrill and performed live by The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble. O’Farrill is the son of the very famous Latin jazz Cuban composer, musician, arranger and bandleader Chico O’Farrill, also known for his work in the Latin idiom, specifically Afro-Cuban jazz or “Cubop”.

Following an overture, the curtain rises to reveal an empty stage with background lit as early morning. As the dark blue slowly changes to a rosy sunrise, Delgado enters with movement suggesting that he is taking his dog for an early walk. His movements begin in place, but soon open and expand into a very generous and free-flowing dance that appears to be Delgado experimenting with and developing movement phrases while never losing sight of his friendly pet.

As the work develops, the movement seen during Delgado’s solo shows up in the following sections of 24 HOURS AND A DOG. He moves about the other performers, joins in with them and in a section titled El Sur/Work in the Studio, he is seen directing them. All this is done seamlessly and without becoming obvious. Delgado manages to weave himself in and out of his creation as if we are simultaneously witnessing the process and the completion of his new work.

Malpaso Dance Company – Photo by Roberto Leon

The dancers are beautiful, and Delgado’s partnering choreography is like his personal movement style: free-flowing. There is a wonderful duet between Delgado and the stunning Dunia Acosta, that feels like a couple getting to know each other while on a date. As they move together and through Delgado’s many lifts, we almost hear their conversations and sense their shifting emotions. The work ends with a very lively ensemble section that showcases the company’s amazing talents: Dunia Acosta, Esteban Aguilar, Maria Karla Araujo, Fernando Benet, Daileidys Carrazana, Osnel Delgado, Manuel Durán, Beatriz Garcia and Abel Rojo. The very soft and beautiful lighting is by Designer Al Crawford and the wonderfully built pedestrian-like costumes are by Eric Grass. The musicians for O’Farrill’s lively music are Arturo O’Farrill: Piano, Vincent Cherico: Drums, Carlo De Rosa: Bass, Seneca Black: Trumpet, Keisel Jimenez-Leyva: Congas, Carlos Maldonado: Percussion, Rafi Malkiel: Trombone, and Ivan Renta: Tenor.

The atmosphere turns darker with a new work by New York City-based choreographer Sonya Tayeh titled FACE THE TORRENT. Superbly lit in stark black and white by Nicole Pearce, this piece examines the struggles, determination and defiance of a people. It begins with the cast dramatically walking from upstage to downstage and back. As they do, a single figure, brilliantly performed by Abel Rojo, begins to falter, weaken and appear to be either dying or succumbing to the oppressors.

The work moves through different levels of reactions to the unseen forces. We see the people gather, separate, run from and regroup to survive. The music titled Seed/Stem/Calyx is composed by Colette Alexander and it is a powerful driving force behind the work. Here too, the lifts and partnering work is very inventive and seamless. The cast includes Acosta, Aguilar, Araujo, Carrazana, Benet, Durán, Garcia and Rojo. The very nice costumes by Karen Young aptly reflect the work without suggesting a population.

Malpaso Dance Company – Photo by Robert Torres

Aszure Barton’s choreography for INDOMITABLE WALTZ is sensual, touching and at times, playful. Costumed in black and gray, athletic-like trunks and halters by Designer Fritz Masten, the performers move through a dancehall-like atmosphere. Couples meet, move amongst other couples and disco-like, non-touching groups dance to the lively music of Romanian violinist, and founder of the Balanescu Quartet, Alexander Bălănescu, British composer Michael Nyman and German composer, Nils Frahm.

There’s a slow dance with changing partners. A male duet that shifts into three duets; two of which are same-sex couples. We witness individual couples apart from the others and relationships developing within the social dance atmosphere.  All this moves with the otherwise sensual and inventive music that suffered from some distortion in the quality of the audio, which was not present in either of the prior pieces. The powerful cast includes Acosta, Aguilar, Araujo, Benet, Carrazana, Delgado, Durán and Lisbeth Saad.

The dancers of Malpaso Dance Company are truly some of the finest talents around. The choreography is wide-ranging and solid, and the production values are brilliant. This company has a very bright future ahead if it stays on its current path and I am hopeful that the Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center will invite them back.

If you would like to visit the LA Dance Chronicle Performance Calendar, click here.