Beat of the Boroughs: Oyu Oro
Danys “La Mora” Pérez is the Founder, Artistic Director & Choreographer of Oyu Oro, a NYC-based Afro-Cuban dance company. Perez, who is originally from Santiago de Cuba, has established a deep connection with the African Diaspora community in Brooklyn through teaching at Cumbe and participating in dance festivals in Brooklyn, including Dance Africa at BAM.
The company is committed to building bridges among African Diaspora cultures as well as between the traditional and unconventional dance forms of modern age, while preserving the Afro-Cuban culture through dance, song and music. Oyu Oro pays tribute to African cultural lineages derived from the Yoruba, Congo, Carabali, Arará, and Dahomean cultures of West Africa and Haiti.
What makes your music distinctive?
The Afro Cuban art that I produce and bring to the stage is an art that carries a historical, restorative, humanistic value, transmitted from generation to generation as part of our oral culture, which was derived mainly from Yoruba, Congo, Dahomey, and Carabali of Africa and that represents the Caribbean and Latin culture. It is a privilege to be able to entertain at the same time that my art educates, informs, heals, preserves a culture that even in the 21st century is still very interesting. It also corresponds to the new accents and demands of the theater and connects as a foundation that identifies our communities and provides a solid guide to the most contemporary expressions of the new generation.
How has the pandemic affected your group?
Personally, the pandemic has been a difficult, painful, and very stressful period, especially experiencing it in isolation. In my opinion, human beings depend on social activity to survive and prosper. I am a full-time performing and teaching artist whose work has been affected by the situation we live in.
I had been regularly teaching in-person Afro-Cuban dance classes at the Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance in Brooklyn, but unfortunately given the pandemic those sessions are postponed.
As a company, we resist and cling to our artist integrity, but this pandemic period canceled all the presentations and functions already agreed upon locally and nationally, including three international tours. We have not been able to meet for our rehearsals regularly, so the productions of our usual premieres have stopped.
How are you reaching your audience now?
As we continue social distancing due to COVID-19, we have been sharing new videos of our company and the Afro-Cuban and Caribbean culture with our audience virtually. We continue to express emotions and joys through movement, music and identity through outdoor rehearsals and a very short presentation in the park. We participated in the “Open Aire” rehearsal organized by the Brooklyn Bridge Park, a very short presentation in the Dance Rising NYC movement; “World Dance Passport” virtual festival; the Ailey Extension’s online classes, Zoom activities and social media events.
What types of support do you most need now?
The pandemic has forced the closure of theaters and studios. As a result, live performances and teaching opportunities have been shuttered since March. We do not have the steady income to fulfill our responsibilities and maintain our resources such as storage rental costs to preserve the handmade costumes, instruments and props. We appreciate any type of support, including donations, advice, information that allow us to receive funding in order to continue reaching out to the public interested in preserving a genuine.
We are determined to adapt to the pandemic situation and hope to continue to exist as artists and as a company, expanding our work virtually or using any other platform that supports our work as needed. With such support, we will be able to continue to offer a good art and the healing spirit of dance and music to the community.
What are your hopes for 2021?
We will return stronger. As artists, we will continue to express our struggle from the stages and from any suitable platform, staying on the side of hope, and working hard for our community and our loved ones, with innovative artistic proposals and wonderful staging as well as with interesting and refreshing stories.
I would particularly love to be able to offer our public all the artistic work that we could not present due to the pandemic, finish productions that are left unfinished due to the closure of the studies and social distancing as soon as the opportunity arrives. In the meantime, I am determined to work with my sincere love and passion to continue developing techniques, strengthening both the physical and emotional aspects of my artists, and sharing its outcome — beautiful spectacular dance stories with our public.
What does it mean to you to be part of Beat of the Boroughs?
This initiative to promote traditional art and culture is a crucial part of the preservation of culture and history. I feel that it is a privilege to be considered as one of its artists and an honor to represent my culture in the program. I hope that through Beat of the Boroughs, our Afro-Cuban art along with many other world’s valuable intangible arts will reach out to the wide variety of audiences in the entire nation and beyond. The participation in this program will expose, cultivate, inform and provide opportunities for our culture. A massive movement from the culture sector helps human beings to develop and improve our planet; and that is very much needed in our society. I think that the initiative to fight art from art itself will keep us at the forefront and with that I identify a lot.
You can view Oyu Oro’s presentation on Monday, January 25, at 5:00 PM on CTMD’s YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/CTMDProgramsConcerts or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CTMDnyc. And learn more about Oyu Oro at www.oyuoro-afrocuban.com.
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