Cuba's overweight dance company celebrates 20 years of performance

Cuba's dance company Danza Voluminous (Voluminous Dance), made up of overweight women and men, has fought for two decades in Cuba to show that non-slender bodies can also dance and offer art and spectacle.

HAVANA, CUBA (REUTERS) - Cuba's dance company Danza Voluminous (Voluminous Dance) made up of overweight women and men, has fought for two decades in Cuba to show that non-slender bodies can also dance and offer art and spectacle.

In a country passionate about dance and where the aesthetics of ballet are important, Voluminous Dance first appeared on the scene in 1996 and has since tried to break prejudices and mockery of overweight people on stage.

At the weekend, the group celebrated its 20 year anniversary with a gala at the National Theatre of Cuba, to a full audience, where it shared the scene with important companies on the island such as Contemporary Dance and Acosta Dance.

One of its members, actor and dancer, Evaristo Valenti, told Reuters many overweight people felt powerless to do certain things.

"Yet there are people who are dubious about what fat people can do. In fact, they consider that being fat is similar to being handicapped. I tell you from experience. One thinks: 'Fat people can't do this, fat people can't do that and fat people can. Because in fat, there are fat people who are married, there are athletes, there are actors, there are dancers," he said.

The leader and creator of the project is Juan Miguel Mas, an overweight Cuban who trained at the Contemporary Dance company and began training obese people starting from variations of typical ballet techniques, especially push-ups or light turns.

The concept of the group is not to offer a perfect dance show, but to create movement from different bodies and to show that overweight people can also express emotions on stage.

Voluminous Dance is made up of a dozen people, most of them women, who never realized their dream of becoming professional dancers.

"The most important thing has been to develop myself as a dancer. It has helped a lot. Obese people sometimes have many complexes, due to people who make fun of us but here I feel great just like the others," said thirty-five-year-old dancer Maylin Daza, who co-founded the group.

Voluminous Dance has its own versions of classic ballets such as Swan Lake and Carmen and other spectacles assembled with typical Cuban rhythms such as rumba.

Many of the choreographies have been created by project creator, Mas himself, with hints of the classics and also a lot of humor, to better connect with an audience that still receives them with contempt.

This unidentified spectator, nevertheless, had only words of praise for the group.

"Not everyone has the courage, the dexterity, the elasticity, to do what they do," he said.