Meet the extraordinary performers of Cuba’s plus-size dance troupe

“We probably all need a bit more of Danza Voluminosa in our lives,” says photographer Ithai Schori.

The Cuban dance company wholeheartedly embodies the joy and love found through creative expression and community—all of which seems more precious than ever. Founded in 1996 by director Juan Miguel Mas, Danza Voluminosa is exclusively composed of  plus-sized dancers, eschewing the stringent body standards classically upheld in the field. Liberated from the noxious pursuit of perfection, a remarkable degree of intrinsic motivation informs their practice.

Upon initiating their project, Schori and filmmaker Jared Christiansen knew that they wanted to capture the members’ unmitigated passion for dance but were unsure what that would look like on a day-to-day basis. Naturally, they discovered it looked like an impromptu dance party to which everyone was invited—figuratively and, at times, literally speaking. “It became immediately clear that Jared is a much better dancer than I am!” says Schori.

As the duo spent time with the company both during and after practice, they discovered just how intertwined the members’ lives are with dance. They decided to highlight this enmeshment, situating a few of the dancers within individualized contexts, including Ana, a security guard at the local energy plant; Valentino, a professor at the University, and Darling; who spends mornings training in the gym. For all, balancing their jobs, familial responsibilities, and other interests with Danza’s rehearsal schedule is a challenge well-worth the effort.

Most of the project was choreographed by Mas, but Schori and Christiansen also collaborated on some of the movement with the dancers, taking care to showcase their specific strengths: “Valentini is a bull, 60 years old and yet dances with such elegance—every movement and line had purpose and study. Others, like Darling are far more explosive; her movements are raw and full of emotion.” Brought together, the dancers of Danza Voluminosa form a jubilant fusion—not only of qualities of movement, but also of lives lived.

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