Belén Vega Pichaco
Afro-Latin American Research Institute Fellow Fall 2017
Belén Vega Pichaco is a Juan de la Cierva Post-doctoral Researcher (MINECO, Spain) in Musicology at the University of Oviedo and belongs to its Research Group MUDANZES (Music, Dance, and Cultural Studies). She received her Ph.D. from the University of La Rioja with a thesis titled «The construction of the ‘New Music’ in Cuba (1927-1946): from Afrocubanism to Neoclassicism», and is author of several publications on ideology, music criticism, dance and identity regarding Cuban and Latin-America art music —among them two contributions for Brepols Publishers (2014 and 2016). Vega Pichaco has been recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the Otto Mayer-Serra Award for Music Research (The Center for Iberian and Latin American Music at the University of California, Riverside). She has carried out research in Cuba (Casa de las Américas / UNEAC, 2010), the United States (Foundation for Iberian Music, City University of New York, 2011 and 2014), Switzerland (Paul Sacher Stiftung, 2014-2015) and France (Centre de Recherches sur les Arts et le Langage / École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 2016).
Dance, Identity and Politics: the Claim for Afro-Cubanity through the First Revolutionary Decade (1959-1969)
Vega Pichaco’s research at ALARI derives from a project developed at the Centre de Recherches sur les Arts et le Langage / École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (CRAL / EHESS, Paris) regarding the representation of identity and its political and diplomatic use in dance performances from Spain and some Latin American countries at the Festival Théâtre des Nations(Theater of Nations), a kind of “Performing Arts’ Olympic Games” held during the 50s and the 60s —at the height of the Cold War— in the French capital. This research revealed that Cuban choreographic participation (in 1961 and 1964) was always related to an active claim for the African elements of Cuban culture as the main hallmark of its identity. The goal of the current project is to expand the inquiry about the processes by which Castro’s regime privileged those African roots, an endeavor with political and ideological implications, both on the island and abroad.
Through the first decade of the Cuban Revolution, not only the rumba and other African-derived popular dance genres were exploited for propaganda purposes by the Cuban National Folkloric Company (1962). An interesting alliance between Modern dance and Afro-Cuban folklore was also displayed with similar aims in the works by Ramiro Guerra at the head of the National Company of Modern Dance founded in 1959. On the one hand, the project will look deep into Guerra’s choreographies on works by the Afro-Cuban composer Amadeo Roldán (Mulato, La rebambaramba, El milagro de Anaquillé and Rítmicas) premiered in Cuba during that decade, and mostly performed at the Theater of Nations (Paris, 1961). On the other hand, it will pay attention to the possibility of applying a post-colonial reading of the so-called “Cuban mythological trilogy” (Suite Yoruba, Orfeo antillano and Medea y los negreros), in which Guerra approached both Ancient Greek myth and Orishas’ pantheon.