Interview with two young Cuban dancers about “dancing like in another dimension”

Mario and Victor Varela

Mario and Víctor Varela are brothers and co-workers. For some years now, they have danced with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and in that company, the undisputed benchmark of modern dance on the island, they are distinguished by their interpretive abilities. Yuris Noredo of CubaSi news site interviewed them recently for a series about young artists in Cuba.

CUBASÍ: How is it that two brothers dedicate themselves to art, to the same art? Was there the tradition in the family?

VÍCTOR: For us since we were children, art was something everyday, natural. Our mother is a producer at the Dramatic Theatre of Cienfuegos, and the world of the stage has always been familiar to us, as long as we can remember.

MARIO: In fact, we grew up running around and playing in the theatre corridors … I think it was natural that we leaned towards art, theatre, dance … And it was thought out, everything just flowed. One day I did the dance tests and I passed them, I went to study. Later, on the verge of taking the exams for secondary education, I did the theatre tests more or less by heart, and I passed them … and I decided to study theatre, I became an actor … although the dance bug never left me.

C: Victor has only studied dance …

V: I did, from the beginning, elementary education and a level pass for high school, first in Santa Clara and then in Havana.

C: But before, when you were very young, did you dream of being dancers?

M: Not at all, our thing was to act. Of course, we loved going to the music jams and dancing at birthday parties. We both loved to dance. And it seems that we were good at it. That’s why we don’t go through a lot of work to pass the exams. And from there to school.

C: And how did the two end up in Danza Contemporanea de Cuba?

V: I came to finish my studies in Havana. I did my social service in the company and I stayed… Mario arrived later, a year later.

M: Because when he entered Dance I was still an actor in Cienfuegos. I’m not going to tell you the story because it’s too long. I will only tell you that in one role I had a character who had to dance, I did it to replace another actor who had to come to Havana urgently and in order not to hold things up I took on the challenge. I’m just saying: that day the dance possessed me. I called my brother and said: “my thing is to dance.” And I waited for the opportunity …

One morning my brother called me, they were looking for a dancer here in Havana. I went home, packed my bags, left a message for my mom, and came here. The proposal was not for Contemporary Dance of Cuba, I didn’t even think I could dance there, it was for George Céspedes’ group (who was a dancer and is a dance choreographer); But the stars aligned, and soon I was taking classes at the company.
Obviously, I had to train a lot, I had to leave many projects behind in Cienfuegos, it was not an easy decision … But now look at me talking to you here.

V: The Mario thing has no name.

C: This question must have been answered more than once: What is dancing for you?

M: Well, I think I already answered it: I made a radical change in my life just to dance. And I do not regret doing it.

V: Look, I’ll just tell you what encourages me the most, what sustains me. Sometimes I am very tired, exhausted from exercise … but the simple thought that this effort is to be able to dance better, already reconciles me with everything. When I am on stage, dancing, I am so happy that all doubts are removed: I was born to be a dancer. And being in the classroom, taking classes or in the assembly processes, is for me the greatest pleasure.

C: More than being on stage?

V: I swear to you, yes, even though some think I’m crazy. I prefer the living room. On stage I am too aware of the public, to do it well. In the living room I dance for me and for me. I realize more.

C: How do you cope with being brothers and co-workers at the same time?

M: Well, very naturally. Outside of the company we are brothers. Inside we are dancers and co-workers. He does what he has to do and I do my part. Of course, if there is a problem, if you twist an ankle, if you hit a bump … then the gene for an overprotective older brother comes out … but in the meantime, each one goes his or her way, until the moment when the roads intersect through the job. But we are different dancers. They scold me for things they praise him…

V: And vice versa… We have been together our whole life and that has never been a conflict.

C: You look alike, some when people see you on stage they think you are twins. I guess some choreographers have taken advantage of that …
V: More than once they have used that resemblance in the works …
M: In fact, in the first choreography that I danced with dance we did a scene in which one was the reflection of the other in a mirror.

C: Do you feel any special connection when you dance together on stage?
V: Yes, there always is. I couldn’t explain it well.

C: What is the best time for a dancer? When are they happiest?

V: Some will tell you that when the curtain closes and everything went well and the applause is felt … but not for me: the moment when I am happiest is when I am so involved in the dance channel that it is as if nothing else existed, or as if one were in another world, total freedom …

M: Yes, that doesn’t happen every day, but when it happens, it’s the greatest thing. And the nice thing is that most of the time the public doesn’t even know.

See the original interview in Spanish on CubaSi Cuban media site here