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Boston choreographer Jose Mateo left Cuba at age 5 with his family, then attended New York City public schools where many of the books he read seemed to have a New England connection. “No wonder I ended up in Boston,” the choreographer says. His dance company performs “Works of Love” at the Sanctuary Theatre, 400 Harvard St., Cambridge, through Feb. 22. Tickets are $42.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

MATEO: I’m always reading a number of books but, though I’m a well-intended reader, I just don’t get through a lot of books. Right now I’m reading the autobiography of Angela Y. Davis, written when she was in her 20s, and a biography of the dancer Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman. The Davis I’m reading in preparation for a choreographic work that I’m envisioning. The Fonteyn was given to me as a holiday present. They are starkly different in terms of the two personalities and two different environments their lives are set in. Fonteyn was idolized in this often insular art form. Davis writes about the people she felt were oppressed, the people who were least likely to be at the ballet. I also help manage the company so one of the books I revisit is “Managing a Nonprofit Organization in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Wolf.

BOOKS: Do you read a lot about dance?


MATEO: A lot of dance books tend to be about fitness or glamorize one company or one dancer. I like to read about trends so I look at writers like Selma Jeanne Cohen, who wrote “Dance as a Theatre Art” about the history of dance, and the New Yorker dance critic Arlene Croce. She has an anthology, “Writing in the Dark, Dancing in The New Yorker,” that I occasionally pick up.

BOOKS: What else do you read about?


MATEO: I read about the philosophy of art and beauty. I recently got a copy of “What Art Is” by Louis Torres about the esthetic theory of Ayn Rand. Having spent time with a fisherman friend of mine in Gloucester, I picked up a book about the fishing industry and culture, “The Last Fish Tale” by Mark Kurlansky. At the same time I read “The North Shore” by a very well known historian from Gloucester, Joseph E. Garland.

BOOKS: Do you read any Cuban authors?

MATEO: I have not. I look at Cuban art and listen to Cuban music so I’ve tried to stay in touch that way. I have some books in Spanish, but I find that it takes me longer to read in Spanish. I’ve been to Africa twice, the last time just over a year ago. I read “The Fate of Africa” by Martin Meredith, and I learned a lot from that. It’s a very sad story and clearly explains why the continent and countries are in the challenged states they are in.

BOOKS: Do you read fiction?

MATEO: Fiction has not been high on my list. It’s not to say that I can’t get wrapped up in it, but I don’t choose to go there. Now that I’m in my 60s I’m trying to better understand my own life and try to inform that understanding by including perspectives from other people.

BOOKS: Do you have any reading habits?

MATEO: Not really, but I’m always surprised at how late I can stay up if I like the reading. It used to put me to sleep. Now I don’t find it as tiring as I used to. It’s almost as if I can get more involved in a book than I could 20 years ago.


BOOKS: Why do you think that is?

MATEO: Having been a dancer, I always thought movement was my form of expression. The written word was less impactful for me. As I get older I don’t move around as much, and I find I can get drawn in deeply to my reading.


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