"Ezekiel's Wheel" Headed to Havana

SMU Dance Professor Danny Buraczeski returns to Cuba to restage signature work with Zenon Dance Company.

dance performance
dance performance
SMU Meadows dancers in Ezekiel’s Wheel.

Danny Buraczeski thought he’d never see Cuba again.

In 2001, the founder of New York- and Minneapolis-based JAZZDANCE spent two weeks in Havana studying Afro-Cuban folkloric dance, Cuban culture and Latin jazz. There by the grace of a grant from St. Paul-based Jerome Foundation, Buraczeski studied with local artists, soaked up Cuban culture and was squired around town by a government-sanctioned tour guide.

“He pretty much talked the government lines about how ‘everything in Cuba is wonderful,’” Buraczeski recalls. “I had to filter what he was saying, but I learned a lot. I had always wanted to go to Cuba because I love Latin jazz, Latin music in particular, and really wanted to learn something about the dancing there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It was fantastic.”

When he boarded the plane to go back to the U.S., he was certain it was the last time he’d see Cuba. But 14 years later, he got word that longtime colleague Linda Andrews, founding artistic director of Zenon Dance Company in Minneapolis, was taking her company to Havana and would be performing Buraczeski’s Ezekiel’s Wheel. He jumped on the phone with Andrews and explained every reason why he needed to go with them.

Andrews agreed. In January 2016, Buraczeski will return to Cuba, where he will help Zenon restage Ezekiel’s Wheel at the Teatro José Martí in downtown Havana. Three performances will be held, January 15-17.

Danny Buraczeski
Danny Buraczeski

“I never thought it would be possible,” says an elated Buraczeski. “This is such a gift.”

Of the numerous original works Buraczeski has created over the past 26 years, Ezekiel’s Wheel is considered one of his signature pieces. Created in the late 1990s in collaboration with percussionist/vocalist Philip Hamilton, with additional input from pianist/arranger Peter Jones, Ezekiel’s Wheel was inspired by the life and work of author, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin. The piece embodies Baldwin’s convictions, courage and influence. It is based on what Hamilton and Buraczeski identify as the three “R’s” of James Baldwin: recognition, responsibility and redemption. The work includes haunting audio recordings of Baldwin reading from his own writings. The Chicago Reader called Ezekiel’s Wheel “… a pivotal work …” and The New York Times described it as “ … balm for the soul in troubled times.”

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