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Dance Diplomacy: American Choreographer Steps Up to Unite U.S. and Cuba

HAVANA — If dance could end political strife between Cuba and the United States, the first steps were taken this weekend by American choreographer Ronald K. Brown at Havana’s Mella Theater.

The award-winning choreographer chose Cuba’s “MalPaso” contemporary dance company to perform one of his original works. Entitled, “Porque Sigues,” or “Why You Follow,” the piece fuses African, American and Cuban influences — a style Brown developed while working in West Africa.

Brown was selected by the Joyce Theater in New York to promote a two-year art partnership between the United States and Cuba. Under that, the Cuban dancers will leap from the Havana stage to one in the Big Apple later this spring to perform more works by Brown.

Award–winning American Choreographer Ron Brown is in Havana this weekend promoting dance diplomacy between the U.S. and Cuba. Roberto Leon / NBC News

Friday night’s packed house included Nick Schwartz-Hall from the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“There was a cultural conversation [between Cuba and the United States] that was interrupted and we’ve all been the poorer because of it,” said Schwartz-Hall, who argues that the two countries’ shared cultural roots have the power to transcend political differences.

Osnel Delgado, MalPaso’s artistic director, thinks “there’s too much talking and not enough dancing” in this world.

He believes dance diplomacy could be the vehicle that starts a conversation between the two governments.

Brown would agree: “Opening up dialogue through dance," he said, "you can see we are connected.”

— Candace King

Award–winning American Choreographer Ron Brown is in Havana this weekend promoting dance diplomacy between the U.S. and Cuba.
Roberto Leon / NBC News