This article was originally published in the Winter 2023 print issue.
Danza Corpus is a contemporary Cuban dance company founded in Cuba by José Angel Carret and now based in Toronto. In December 2021, the company took its annual conference to the next level, adding an international competition for dance students and professional contemporary dancers with cultural exchange at its core.
TEADE, an acronym for its Spanish name, Temporada Espacio Abierto para la Danza y el Espectáculo (Open Space for Dance and Performing Arts), began in 2011 to celebrate Danza Corpus’s 10-year anniversary. For its first eight years, TEADE took Canadian dancers to Matanzas, Cuba, for a weekend of intercultural learning and sharing.
It’s now gaining momentum in Canada – no longer a single yearly event but a summer and winter affair. Their first in-person Toronto-based competition took place in December 2021, and they’re currently working towards the second iteration of the TEADE competition, to take place Jan. 18-21.
Like so many other things in 2020, TEADE moved online out of necessity during the pandemic. The two digital years were a blessing in disguise, demonstrating the true extent of the event’s international potential. In TEADE’s winter 2021 iteration, Danza Corpus added a professional competition for contemporary dancers, something they felt was missing from the Canadian competition scene.
“It was amazing, because we said, ‘Well, we can’t go to Cuba, so we’re going to do it online,’ ” says TEADE’s co-director, Mercedes Bernardez Carret. They invited people from Spain, Italy, England and Japan and soon had a roster of dance instructors, choreographers and lecturers from around the world.
When in-person events became possible again, Carret and Bernardez Carret decided to move TEADE’s home base to Toronto to tap into a diverse range of international talent. Cultural diversity is a central principle of Danza Corpus and the driving force behind TEADE. As Carret explains, Cuba’s long history can be glimpsed through the rich assortment of dance styles now practised across its landscape.
“We have popular dance like cha-cha, mambo, rumba, salsa,” says Carret. “And Afro-Cuban: we have different types of styles, not only palo or sometimes Yoruba. We have many people from Africa [in Cuba]. They came a long time ago, and if you go to different provinces [there], you can find different information about Afro-Cuba.”
“You can see in the movement…” says Carret, “the roots, the heritage,” Bernardez Carret finishes.
Root preservation is crucial to Carret and Bernardez Carret because it takes a strong foundation to enjoy fusion and experimentation. As Carret explains, it’s difficult to do anything without combining styles. The roots must be secure so they don’t get lost in the mixture. Roots are also strengthened, explains Bernardez Carret, by the act of sharing.
“It’s part of the culture,” she says. “So that’s why when [Carret] choreographs contemporary dance, he has his roots in Afro-Cuban and in all the heritage he has in Cuba.” By bringing those roots with him into other styles, he gives them new life each time. This cultural richness, Bernardez Carret says, creates excitement and connection between individuals and the world around them.
For the two organizers, dance and the societies they are born from are more or less inseparable. “That’s why we describe ourselves as advocates of social issues too,” says Bernardez Carret. “It’s all connected.”
Participants at this year’s TEADE can expect to take part in both an opening and a closing gala, an array of workshops and networking opportunities and a trip to Niagara Falls for the closing ceremony.
Every participant in January’s event, whether they compete or simply take part in the workshops, will have the opportunity to perform at the opening and closing galas. Attending organizations from around the globe are asked to prepare a piece of contemporary fusion work with which to compete and a second performance that they feel represents the country or community from which they’ve come.
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