Disapproving of the way the school is run, she fomented a little revolution there. Her ideas stimulated the students' restlessness. They knew they weren't getting trained as well as they should have been. They wished they had better choreography to perform. They gathered the courage to protest to the bureaucrat in charge of the institution, and they gained some concessions; they wished Guillermoprieto would take over for Elfriede Mahler. But eventually Guillermoprieto began to see everything through a fog of lethargy and lay in the studio unable to choreograph, planning ways she might commit suicide. None were practical; a friend put his arms around her and laughed her out of the idea. She left Cuba.

Lorna Burdsall, now a grandmother, contentedly continues her career there, having long ago, as she says, become Cubanized, "aplatanada" (full of bananas). She found happiness creating and sponsoring small-scale dances with the members of Así Somos—dances often performed in her apartment for audiences of 20 or 30. Judging from photos and her descriptions, many of them are less overtly political—in terms of narrative, anyway—than her earlier work. Some of her images of the human body disguised by fabric and light call to mind the work of Alwin Nikolais (Elfriede Mahler had danced with Nikolais's company, but neither Burdsall nor Guillermoprieto describe Mahler's own choreography.) At the end of More Than Just a Footnote, however, Burdsall becomes passionate about the sorry state of the world in general and the demonization of Cuba by America in particular. "When we leave hearth and home," she writes, "we become caught up in the territory of the streets where our mental blinders try to shield us from these never ending territorial games: the slicing up of other peoples' bodies, property, land, cultures, beliefs, and souls."

Details

Dancing With Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution
By Alma Guillermoprieto
Pantheon, 290 pp., $25
Buy this book

More Than Just a Footnote: Dancing From Connecticut to Revolutionary Cuba
By Lorna Burdsall
Self-published, 228 pp., $25
For more info, e-mail slrcamera@aol.com or call 859.266.2928

Both these writers struggled to define dance for themselves in a strange culture. Burdsall's work is inevitably tied to both her roots in American modern dance and her adopted Cuban identity. Guillermoprieto found that dance was not only not an international language, but one that she no longer cared to speak.

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