Cultural Voice eZine

Friday, 30 November 2012

Remembering Maestro Eduardo Rivero-Walker, Former Artistic Director of Cuba's Leading Modern Dance Company

Article published in the Jamaica Gleaner

The passing of Eduardo Rivero-Walker, the adopted Jamaican dancer, legendary Afro-centric modern dance choreographer and artistic director of Cuba's leading modern dance company Compañía Teatro Dela Danza Del Caribe de Santiago, has left the dance community in shock.

Rivero-Walker's passing has also left a void among members of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) and the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble.

In fact, the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble's 19th Season of Dance - which is scheduled to run at the Little Theatre from November this weekend - will be paying tribute to Rivero-Walker's work as choreographer and teacher.
"His passing has given heightened significance to his entrusting to us his choreographic work Toromato," said Dr MoniKa Lawrence, artistic director and founder of the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble. Lawrence worked closely with Rivero-Walker - first as a dancer with the NDTC, and subsequently with the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, where he taught."Eduardo is a cultural icon," declared Dr Lawrence.

"His rich legacy in the arts will unquestionably live on. We owe a debt of gratitude for his varied contribution to the arts in Jamaica. He will surely be missed by the world of dance theatre," she said.

Rivero-Walker also gained the respect of founder of NDTC and dance icon, the late Rex Nettleford.

In fact, it was Nettleford who "discovered" him and his Yoruban-based technique while on a visit to Cuba in the 1970s. So impressed was Nettleford that he invited Rivero-Walker to visit Jamaica in 1978 as a guest choreo-grapher with the NDTC.


That visit to the island led to a fruitful collaboration and a long-term creative exchange between both companies: Compañía Teatro Dela Danza Del Caribe de Santiago, NDTC - and Edna Manley School of Dance.

Rivero-Walker was renowned for incorporating the Yoruban-based technique, which celebrated the beauty and virility of the African body, as well as the lifestyle of the Yoruban people, into his dances.

This technique is summed up in his seminal piece Sulkari, which he created while a principal dancer and choreographer for Danza Nacional de Cuba. He bequeathed that piece to the NDTC in 1979-80.
Sulkari celebrates fertility and the continuity of man as inspired by details of African sculptures and artefact, as well as the movement of the Yoruba people of Dahomey, Africa.

In fact, Sulkari enjoyed a remount in the recently concluded NDTC Jamaica 50 Season of Dance.

In addition to Sulkari,Rivero-Walker also passed on to the NDTC hisOkontomi and Romance, while NDTC shared with the Compañía del Caribe Nacional de Santiago (Rivero-Walker's first company) Nettleford'sThe Crossing; Carson Cumberbatch's Cry of the Spirit and Bert Rose's Steal Away.

Barry Moncrieffe, artistic director of NDTC, remembers Rivero-Walker, whose mother was Jamaican, "not only as a teacher, dancer and choreographer, but also as a close friend".

The bonds between NDTC and Rivero-Walker's dance company were further strengthened when two lead dancers of Compañía Teatro Dela Danza Del Caribe de Santigao -Arsenio Andrade-Calderon and Abeldo 'Toki' Gonzalez-Fonseca - joined the NDTC in 1995 and served for many years as principal dancers.

Gonzalez-Fonseca, who currently serves as ballet master for the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, describes Rivero-Walker as an inspirational mentor and teacher who was proud of his African roots and Cuban nationalism.

"In Cuba, Eduardo is to dance what Rex Nettleford is to dance in Jamaica. His legend and legacy will live on through his dances and his teaching," he said.

Rivero-Walker died of lung cancer in Santiago, Cuba, on November 2. He was 77 years old.


Monday, 12 November 2012

From Calcutta to Melbourne, Dr. Michele Lobo Tackles Shifting Identities

Born in Calcutta, India, Dr. Michele Lobo migrated to Australia in the year of the Sydney Olympics, 2000, after quite a random conversation with her Brother-in- Law who lived in Australia at the time. She describes the Christmas scene, with family and friends in Eastern India: “There was lots of food, drinks, and merriment,” typical of celebrations at that time of the year for her family. Her brother-in law called from Australia and said that he was watching TV, a shocking revelation  for an Indian at Christmas Time. On further prodding, he explained, that it was because of the lack of family members nearby to celebrate with and asked “why don’t you guys move here?” The rest, as we say, is history!

Dr. Lobo is a 2012 recipient of the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (Decra), and an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Lobo describes Calcutta as very busy, colourful, crowded with endless hustle, bustle and buzz. She describes the inequality that has become synonymous with the social structure of the city and tells us that this is part of the reason that she has become so passionate about issues of social justice. She tells CV that she had been well-settled in India, lecturing at that university and the decision to move to Melbourne, Australia, with her husband was simply taking a chance at something different. Dr. Lobo’s family in India was classified as Anglo-Indian, and she longed to be seen as simply Indian, The Anglo designation evolved from her Christian, westernised, upbringing which separated her culturally from the mainstream Indian traditional lifestyle.

Once arriving in Melbourne, she at once became simply “Indian.” She smiles as saying that it’s a fight to become simply “Australian” as being Australian really has a connotation of White Anglo-Australian. This discussion forms the backdrop for Dr. Lobo’s studies and work, who has looked extensively on how whiteness is a privilege and how it regulates everyday life. She shares that based on her findings even with the diversity that is striking in Australia, “Anglo is privileged.” She has found it intriguing that in her interactions with the aboriginal Australians that they are so warm and welcoming. 

Dr. Lobo has been greatly inspired by feminist writers and researchers. Paramount among ideologies that intrigues her is the work on otherness, the body, reconstituting how the world can be different. She makes reference to Emmanuel Levinas, Michel Foucault, and as an inspiration for her PhD thesis Judith Butler. 

Dr. Lobo speaks Hindi, Bengali, English and a bit of German and admits that though her children learned these languages while infants in India, they have not practiced, as the lessons are only offered on the weekends outside of regular school hours. During this time they are much more intent of playing cricket. 

Dr. Lobo’s motto is “In giving, you receive” which is how she sees life - as a collective effort rather than an individual one. She takes time every year to attend at least one day of the Australian Open in January with her family.

Posted with Thumnails on her door at Deakin's Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation reads the following: 

“I can’t help but dream of the kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgements but signs of existence. It would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes – all the better. All the better. … It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightening of possible storms.”

(Michel Foucault, 1997)