Moving Caribbean in NYC: Beatrice Capote, Dancer with Christal Brown, Kyle Abraham & Camille A. Brown, on her Cuban Roots
is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. She attended Professional Performing Arts High School and studied as a scholarship student at Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. She then graduated from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Montclair State University with a Dance Education Degree. Ms. Capote has worked with numerous companies and choreographers such as: INSPIRIT, a dance company, Areytos Performance Works, Kyle Abraham/Abraham. In. Motion and more. She is currently faculty at Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University, Joffrey Ballet School, and a member of Camille A. Brown and Dancers. Ms. Capote performed her solo work for festivals such as: WestFest Dance, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD), Pepatian Dance Concert at Pregones Theater, and Battery Dance Festival. In her work, she gravitates towards the individual artistry/ experience. The movement quality is known to be very energetic and vibrant contemporary modern aesthetic infused with Afro-Cuban folklore. Her goal is for the audience to experience and relate to the work. Check out beatricecapote.com
Christine Jowers for The Dance Enthusiast: Beatrice, so nice to speak with you. Tell us, about your connection to the island of Cuba.
Beatrice Capote: Both of my parents are from La Habana. Though I grew up in New Jersey, Cuban dance, music, culture and all discussions of that beautiful island were always shared. My grandparents made sure that we understood and embraced Cuban morals and values. Mi abuela siempre decia ( My grandmother always said), "A ser Cubana es un orgullo y siempre estaremos unidos! ("I am proud to be Cuban and we will always be united!")
Dance Enthusiast: What did you take away from your experience of visiting the island of Cuba?
Beatrice Capote: My grandparents are from Holguin, and my mother is from Marianaw en La Habana. I visited Marianaw for the first time five years ago to meet my Cuban family. I didn’t realize how many aunts, uncles, and cousins I had. It was a marvelous experience that I cherish in my heart. The family core values and the music and dance that circulated in my New Jersey household were the same as those of my Cuban family on the island. Even though I am “Americanized," we speak the same language.
Dance Enthusiast: What part of your Caribbean heritage do you believe is important to share with others?
Beatrice Capote: I have always concentrated on my craft in ballet, modern, jazz, and contemporary dance techniques. I trained at the Alvin Ailey School and graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Montclair State University. I performed with Christal Brown’s INSPIRIT, a dance company, Kyle Abraham/ Abraham.In.Motion, and Camille A. Brown and Dancers. However, I've never pursued Afro-Cuban dances or Cuban popular dances professionally. Last year, I began creating solo performances for the Battery Dance Festival, the WestFest Dance Festival, and a few other smaller festivals, and I began to insert Afro-Cuban folklore into my contemporary aesthetics.
I grew up listening to and learning salsa and rumba dance, but it was always treated as social dance. This fall semester, I started training in Cuban Orisha dances as part of my MFA project at Montclair State University. I realized during my private and group practices that while I may not have been born in Cuba, the rhythm and dances are in my DNA, past down from generation to generation. This is the time to start studying and involving myself entirely in Afro-Cuban dances. It’s time to awaken the legacy of my Cuban roots.
Dance Enthusiast: Have you struggled with stereotypes?
Beatrice Capote: I've kept silent about my experience of stereotypes for a long time. I never fit the stereotypical "look of a Latina" that people living in the New York/New Jersey area ( where I grew up) recognize. With my Hispanic friends at dinner, I would be the only one spoken to in English. I felt as if I wasn't "Hispanic enough” for them. Then, I was not familiar enough with the lingo, southern foods, or music of my African-American friends, so I didn't feel “black enough” for them. It was always a weird dynamic. I now realize that the world looks through a narrow lens to see Caribbean people. When people ask me, where I am from, trying to categorize me, I say; “I am a proud, black girl with dread-locks that speaks Spanish and is of Cuban Descent. Anything else you want to know?”
Dance Enthusiast: Who most influences you?
Beatrice Capote: My family and my Afro-Cuban mentors are important influences on me. My family supports, guides, and cherishes the paths I have taken in my dancing and educational career. They've taught me to never forget where I come from and where they come from.
Yesenia Selier and Danys “La Mora” Perez are my current mentors who are guiding me through the process of learning and embodying Afro-Cuban vocabulary. Coming from a ballet and modern aesthetic, this can be challenging. I am learning, "this" dance is not about the steps. It is about a narrative and embodying the Orishas. The dancer responds to an internal initiation, then projects to the external.
Camille A. Brown, is also one of my mentors. I’ve worked with for two years. She has helped me broaden my knowledge and skill in storytelling, dance performance, and choreography.
Beatrice Capote; Photo by Marisol Díaz 2016
Dance Enthusiast: What is your favorite Caribbean memory?
Beatrice Capote: One favorite memory from Cuba was dancing salsa with my family outside in the streets of El Malecon. I felt as if we were involved in a site-specific work as the crowd watched and recorded us. It was such a pleasant experience and one that reminds me how proud I am to embark on this journey into Afro-Cuban dance and music.
Im interested in learning from Cuban dance artists and creating partnerships of shared ideas. This may lead to possible performances in Cuba or the United States. The point is to bind young Cuban-American artists and Cuban artists together to continue to discover our common language.