What: Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba's logistical challenges touring with "Cuba Vibra."
Where: Cutler Majestic Theatre, Nov. 7-8, presented by World Music/CRASHarts. Tickets $40-$79. 617-876-4275, www.worldmusic.org
Going to Cuba to experience that country's culture may be getting easier, but bringing that culture here can still be a major challenge. Juan Carlos Coello, company manager of Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, should know.
The troupe has been bringing Cuban music and dance on tour for 25 years, with some productions involving up to 50 people, plus sets, costumes, and instruments. It makes its Boston debut this week with "Cuba Vibra," which involves 32 people.
When we spoke to Coello just eight days before the troupe was due to arrive here, two musicians' visas had been denied and those of six others, including artistic director Lizt Alfonso, had yet to be approved.
Though the company has support from Cuba's Ministry of Culture and Coello says he has good relations with ambassadors to his country, getting visas is always stressful. "The biggest, most complicated issue is always the visa process, particularly for the US," said Coello by phone, fresh from visiting the American Embassy in Havana. "It is one you cannot control, in the hands of someone who doesn't know you or your work. We don't need permission to leave Cuba. We need permission to get into the US, which is, in my opinion, ridiculous. I think they fear someone is going to defect, but they could have done that in Mexico or Canada, and they didn't."
Meanwhile, Coello has his hands full with other logistics, from air and ground travel to lodging. For the two days the group is in Boston, they are staying in a hotel 30 minutes away. "We travel in a big bus that becomes part of our home," said Coello, who is married to Alfonso. "But it's enjoyable that we are all together. We have a good time. It's important to keep everyone in the good mood."
In addition to extensive pre-tour preparations, Coello normally travels in advance of the group to make sure all the logistics are in place. "I joke to my people, when we start the tour, I'm already exhausted. But I want to make sure they don't have any problems but to do their work."
He calls “Cuba Vibra” a showcase of Cuban culture from the 1950s to the present day. “We have been living through a lot of difficulties and trouble for years, because of isolation, but we keep the happiness in our soul and our blood,” he says. “We don’t lose our smile, and that has helped us overcome those difficult years. We want to show that passion, feeling, and spirit, transmit all that to the audience and touch their hearts, lift the theater witha real taste of what we are and what we can do.”